In a first step toward developing a migraine diagnostic blood test, Johns Hopkins researchers are zeroing in on blood levels of a fat-derived protein as a potential biomarker.
The journal Headache publishes the details of the GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK)/NIH-funded study. Here's the gist: Lead researcher B. Lee Peterlin and colleagues zeroed in on adiponectin, or ADP, a protein hormone secreted from fat tissue that can modulate migraine-related pain. Specifically, they looked at low-molecular-weight (LMW) and high-molecular-weight (HMW) versions of the substance. Adiponectin is an important element in the body, affecting everything from sugar metabolism, insulin regulation, immunity and inflammation. It can also be a factor behind obesity (a migraine risk factor), and regulates some migraine-related pain pathways, according to the research team.
By studying blood samples taken at various times from 20 women who visited headache clinics during an acute migraine attack, they determined that when LMW ADP levels increased, migraine pain lessened. But when HMW ADP levels became much greater than LMW ADP levels, migraine pain got much worse. And patients, once they received an antimigraine drug, experienced a drop in total ADP levels in their blood.
Peterlin, an associate professor of neurology and director of headache research at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told FierceMedicalDevices that she saw the results as "exciting and encouraging" in the bid to concoct a migraine blood test diagnostic, but cautioned that realization of the goal is a long way into the future.
"It is far too early to be in development of an actual biomarker test at this stage," she said via email. But, she noted, the results so far suggest that the ratio of HMW/LMW adiponectin is a viable biomarker for which a migraine diagnostic or targeted treatment can be developed, essentially giving researchers a "proof of concept or feasibility" from which to move forward.
So, what comes next? "The next step would be to conduct a larger and confirmatory study of these findings, as well as similar studies evaluating what happens to the HMW/LMW ratio levels in response to other treatments," Peterlin told us, "and is the same as the current findings."
- read the release
- here's the journal abstract