Four scientists who discovered a key mechanism that causes migraines, paving the way for new preventive treatments, have won the largest neuroscience award in the world, sharing £ 1.1 million.
The Lundbeck Foundation in Denmark announced on Thursday that British researcher Peter Goadsby, Michael Moskowitz of the United States, Lars Edvinsson of Sweden and Jes Olesen of Denmark had won the Brain prize.
In a press conference before the announcement, Goadsby, professor of neurology at King’s College London, said: “I am excited that migraine research is receiving this award and that migraine, this disabling problem that is a brain disorder , is being properly recognized. “
Formally known as the European Grete Lundbeck Brain Research Prize, the annual award recognizes highly original and influential advances in any area of brain research. The award ceremony will take place in Copenhagen on October 25. where the award will be presented by Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark.
The award-winning research revolves around unraveling the neural basis for migraine, a crippling neurological condition characterized by stabbing headache episodes, as well as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch, and smell. It affects about one in seven people worldwide and is about three times more common in women than men. In the UK, it is estimated that migraines cause the loss of 25 million work or school days each year at an economic cost of 2.3 billion pounds.
For many years, migraine headaches were thought to be a psychosomatic condition, as a result of people being unable to cope with stress. Although there were treatments available, these only helped alleviate the symptoms, rather than address the root cause, which was unknown.
In 1979, Moskowitz, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, proposed that migraines are the result of an interaction between the trigeminal nerve, involved in sensing sensations from the head and face, and thin, sensitive membranes. to the pain surrounding the “meninges”. brain. He showed that migraine attacks are triggered when the fibers of the trigeminal nerve release chemicals called neuropeptides that cause the blood vessels in the meninges to dilate, causing inflammation and pain. He suggested that blocking the action of these neuropeptides could provide a new type of treatment.
Another breakthrough came when Goadsby, along with Edvinsson, a professor of internal medicine at Lund University in Sweden and president of the International Headache Society, identified the key neuropeptide involved in triggering these attacks: the peptide related to the calcitonin gene. (CGRP).
Olesen’s additional work showed that when CGRP was given to migraine patients, it could trigger an attack and that drugs that blocked the neuropeptide could help treat migraine headaches. In 2004, he and his team published the results of a large clinical trial suggesting that these “CGRP antagonist drugs” were effective in the acute treatment of migraine attacks.
This has led to the development of new treatments, including monoclonal antibody-based drugs such as erenumab, currently available in the UK, and the small-molecule drugs rimegepant and ubrogepant, which are so far only available in the US.. Although these medications do not cure migraines, they dramatically improve the quality of life for many patients, helping both to treat and prevent migraine attacks.
Goadsby said: “I think what’s important about this research is that it shows that a neuroscience-based approach has value and that bedside and laboratory research together has the ability to change clinical practice. I am honored by the emails we receive from patients whose lives have been changed by these medications. We haven’t changed them all, we’re just getting started, but what this research shows is that migraine is a treatable problem. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism