Migraine Medications That Only Target CGRP Levels May Be Why They Don't Work As Well

Migraine relief
A new drug for migraine under-performs, revealing a new treatment possibility in the process. r. nial bradshaw, CC BY 2.0

Migraines have long been associated with elevated levels of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), an amino acid that interacts with other neurotransmitters. Despite many clinical studies examining this link, there’s still a sort-of gray area surrounding CGRP’s biological mechanisms. But a new study analysis from the University of Auckland may shed some light.

Researchers initially set out to develop a drug called gepants, which International Business Times reported would “inhibit the activity of CGRP at the receptor sites of the nerves.” While the drug fell short of their expectations, it wasn’t a total loss. IBT added the process of development revealed to researchers another treatment possibility.

"We have discovered that CGRP activates a second target on the surface of pain-sensing nerve cells, called AMY1, which the gepants are not designed to block," said Debbie Hay, associate professor at Auckland.  "Despite this hormone having such a clear role in migraines, why it's been so hard to actually block it may be that we need to block two things and not just one."

Dr. Christopher Walker, a study fellow, said the discovery of this additional receptor could explain why drugs targeting CGRP alone haven’t proven very effective. The next steps are to study the relationship between the receptors, both individually and combined together, to understand how exactly they lead to head pain. Walker and his team “are excited about the possibilities that AMY1 holds for treating migraine and even other types of pain.”

The World Health Organization reported headache disorders are among the most common disorders of the nervous system; 47 percent of the population has had a headache at least once within the last year. Migraine especially is “recurrent, often-lifelong, and characterized by attacks. As science works to develop an effective painkiller, there are alternative solutions for relief growing in popularity. Of course, we’re talking about meditation.

A recent study from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found practicing meditation (and yoga) actually changes the brain; it helps people to cope with cognitive impairment, including migraines. In my own previous meditation challenge for Medical Daily, I found my headache pain was impacted the most by regular practice.

Everyday Health found a couple drops of lavender oil in a glass of hot water can work as natural pain relief for headache. And the flavonoid’s found in buckwheat can reduce inflammation, which is believed to be a cause of headache.

Source: Walker C.S., et al. A second trigeminal CGRP receptor: function and expression of the AMY1receptor. Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology. 2015.

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