New research has suggested that the cause of migraine pain comes from a molecule called calcitonin gene-related peptide and drug companies are using neuroscience to develop medications to prevent them before their onset.
If you’re one of the 12% of people in the world who suffer from a migraine every year, you know from personal experience how bothersome they can be. New research has proposed that the molecule calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) may be the main culprit behind your pain. This is so promising because now drug companies are working to develop a medication that can block CGRP receptors and, in effect, reduce or eliminate pain.
These new drugs would work by blocking CGRP receptors on neurons that communicate pain to one another. CGRP is a peptide vasodilator that is normally found in parts of the brain that process pain and regulate blood flow. In people who are prone to migraines, their CGRP receptors have a heightened sensitivity to CGRP. Thus, if CGRP cannot interact with its receptors, pain won’t get communicated as readily.
A valuable anecdote reported in Science describes how people most prone to migraines have a heightened sensitivity to CGRP, similar to a car with an easily triggered alarm. There is still more to be understood about the physiology of CGRP, but for the time being, pharmaceutical companies are investing money in developing drugs that can use our current understanding to treat these throbbing, nagging reminders that it’s going to rain this afternoon.
So how close are we to actually being able to buy these drugs? An example of one migraine drug in development is TEV-48125, a monoclonal antibody (an antibody made from immune cells cloned from one parent) that binds directly to CGRP. By binding to CGRP, the monoclonal antibody changes the overall shape of the molecule so that its receptors no longer recognize it and binding no longer occurs. It’s currently being developed by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and is in Phase IIb of clinical trials, in which its clinical effectiveness in preventing chronic and episodic migraines is being assessed.
Underwood,. A Shot at Migraine. Science 351, 6269 p116-119 (2016)
Written by Adam Betel