Reporter: Helen Wellings

Ash Upadhyaya and Magdalena Amarilla are just two of three and a half million Australians, two thirds of them women, who suffer .. not just bad headaches, but far worse ... debilitating migraines that last from a few hours ... up to 7 days in Magdalena's case, every week.

For 15 years, Professor Lyn Griffiths, Director of the Griffith University Institute of Health and Medical Research, has been researching migraines. She's hit on an amazing discovery... coming up.

"These are the tablets we are going to be using in our next trial." Said Professor Lyn Griffiths

"It is like you have lost yourself It is just so bad that you have to lie on the floor and you can't move." Said Magdalena

"Watery eyes, nausea and vomiting, and my eyes get really sensitive to light, so I'm not able to read, or look at the screen of a computer." Said Ash Upadhayaya

For the past 20 to 40 years, triptan, anti-inflammatory and preventative drugs treat migraine ... but they help only HALF the sufferers. Whats more it's been discovered that overuse of asprin and paracetamol can make the brain more sensitive to pain, make headaches worse and more frequent. So ...the desperate need for new remedy, a cure for migraines.

Dr Michael Halmagyi, Neurologist at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, President of the Brain Foundation and Headache Australia, says migraine, a problem with either the blood or nerve supply in the brain and scalp, is GENETIC, inherited from your mother or father or both. The triggers vary ... red wine, chocolate, stress, bright light, hormonal changes, dehydration.

"Definitely chocolate, um sometimes coffee for me." Said Ash

Monosodium glutamate MSG certainly does it and that is not just in Asian food it is in almost every snack food." Said Dr Michael Halmagyi

It often starts with aura, shimmering blinding lights in the eyes

for up to an hour .. then the disabling pain.

"Terrible headache, nausea and vomiting, sometimes with some loss of vision, temporary, loss of speech temporary, terrible spinning or vertigo, temporary." Said Dr Michael

Professor Lyn Griffiths discovered that while 12% to 15% of people worldwide get migraine, on Norfolk Island ... much higher - a gene mutation has 26 and a half per cent of inhabitants suffering from severe migraines.

"And we've used these populations for us to try and track down the real cause of migraine." Said Professor Lyn Griffiths

Professor Griffiths and her team have discovered 3 different classes of genes that cause migraines, sufferers can have one or two. She's focussed on one gene in particular ... which has a mutation that causes an enzyme to be produced at levels that are too low. This happens in 30% of migraine patients.

"This is very very exciting because this is the first gene that has definitely been identified in migraine." Said Dr Halmagyi

She hit on how to solve the problem.... vitamins, mainly B and folate.

"We've found people that have low levels of the enzyme which is abnormal, if we have more of the vitamins, we originally thought well it should overcome this problem, and we were able to show that in some small trials to show that yeah, we can make the enzyme work better. But more importantly when we gave these extra co-factors, it dropped the frequency and the severity and the pain associated with their migraine." Said Professor Griffiths

BUT ... it's not a matter of migraine sufferers simply popping vitamin pills

. Professor Grifiths, now into the third stage of the trials, says it's critical to formulate the CORRECT vitamin dose based on an individual's genetic makeup... and that's what she's now aiming to find out.

"This is the first time that this has been done in the world

, so it's important because it's a new, potential prophylactic treatment for quite a significant number of the population." Said Professor Griffiths

Gerald Edmonds, CEO of the Brain Foundation and Headache Australia, which funds brain research and promotes awareness.

"One way everyone can help here is if you know someone who suffers migraines or you suffer and are watching tonight, please register on our website. That means we can keep you up-to-date with the latest treatments and you too can participate in research studies to help solve your problem." Said Gerald Edmonds

Contact information

Funding brain research and increasing awareness.
PO Box 579, Crows Nest NSW 1585
02 9437 5967
email: info@brainfoundation.org.au

Professor Lyn Griffiths
Director of the Griffith Institute of Health and Medical Research
Griffith University

Gold Coast Campus

email: grcclinic@griffith.edu.au

phone: 07 5552 9201 - leave name and number and calls will be returned