A genetic variation that had helped early humans adapt to cold weather can contribute to migraine headaches in some populations today, according to a new study.
Migraines are a weakening neurological disorder that affects millions of people worldwide.
The proportion of people suffering from the disease varies between human populations, but is greatest in individuals of European descent, which is also the population with the highest rate of the cold adaptive variant, mentioned the study.
findings published in the journal PLOS Genetics suggest that adaptation to cold temperatures in early human populations may have contributed to some extent to the variation in migraine prevalence existing among human groups today.
"This study shows how early evolutionary pressures can affect today's phenotypes," says co-author Felix Key of Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.
Within the last 50,000 years, some people have left the warm climate in Africa to colonize colder locations in Asia, Europe and other parts of the world.
"This colonization could have been accompanied by genetic adaptations that helped early people respond to cold temperatures," said Aida Andres, also from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
To find evidence of this adaptation, researchers looked closer at TRPM8, a gene encoding the only known receptor that allows a person to detect and respond to cold and cold temperatures.
They discovered that a genetic variant upstream of the gene that can regulate it became more common in populations living in higher latitudes over the last 25,000 years.
Currently, the proportion of people in a population carrying the variant has increased at higher latitudes and with colder climate, the study said.
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