Migraine sufferers could have a genetic mutation that makes them more sensitive to pain in their faces, according to a new study.
Tests on mice genetically engineered to have a defective potassium channel found they were more sensitive to temperature and touch stimuli on their faces.
Rodents with faulty TSERK channels also showed more headache-related behaviours compared with normal mice, while responding in the same way to body pains.
The findings, published in the eNeuro journal, revealed a new target for researchers looking to create better migraine treatments.
The painful condition has no cure affects one in five women and around one in 15 men, according to the NHS.
The study was conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, US.
Study leader Dr Yu-Qing Cao analysed mice genetically modified to have defective TRESK channels and measured their neural activity.
The TRESK potassium channel is thought to control how excitable neurons in pain sensors in the skin detect pain, heat, cold, and touch.
His research team found that only facial pain receptors were more excitable in the mice.
Their sensory neurons also had more “spontaneous activity”.
Dr Cao said the finding suggested the TSERK channels had cell-specific roles and wre responsible for regulating pain in facial sensory neurons, making them a target for migraine treatment research.