SNPWatch & 23andMe Research Findings: Migraines and the Speed of Science

Editor’s note: This post has been changed from its original to reflect regulatory changes on what 23andMe can report to customers.

Science is slow. It can take years to enroll patients in studies, run experiments and analyze data. To make matters worse, it can often take a year or more just to get those findings published. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a faster way? A recent paper on genetic associations in migraines gave our research team an opportunity to demonstrate the power of our unique research framework.

In a study published last week in Nature Genetics, a large group of researchers led by Daniel Chasman of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston identified three new SNPs associated with migraines. The researchers compared nearly 9,000 people who reported migraines to about 32,000 individuals who did not report migraines, all of European ancestry. They found   a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP),   associated with 1.11 times higher odds of migraines, another SNP, was associated with 0.85 times the odds of migraines and another associated with 0.90 times the odds of migraines.

Within a matter of days our research team ran an analysis of our own migraine cohort, comprising over 4,600 migraine sufferers and over 22,000 controls, and found similar results for all three of the associations reported in the paper. Of interest was the fact that the new Nature Genetics study found no association between migraines and , a link reported by a study published last year. And like Chasman’s group, we also found no association between and migraines in the 23andMe database.

One possible explanation for these results may have been differences in determining if patients were suffering from migraines. All of the new patient groups in Chasman’s study self-reported whether they suffered from migraines, while the group used in the previous study consisted of clinician-diagnosed migraine sufferers. Here at 23andMe we also use self-report data, although our survey question asks specifically if the migraine was diagnosed by a physician. Further research is necessary to fully understand the role of genetics in migraines, however these new findings — replicated by our scientists — provide promising insight into the nature of the condition.

Thanks to our customers science doesn’t have to be slow. Those interested in migraines can continue to help move the field forward by answering the migraine survey. There are also many other surveys covering a variety of topics that help our research team make exciting new discoveries. This is just one example of the power and speed of our research.