BIDDEFORD—The Migraine Research Foundation awarded University of New England Assistant Professor Colin Willis a $50,000 grant to study the mechanisms of blood-brain barrier dysfunction in medication overuse headaches.

This grant was one of seven awarded by the foundation out of 40 proposals from nine countries, according to a press release from the university.

“We are thrilled with the caliber of the investigations in these proposals. They represent novel clinical and bench science approaches to unraveling the mysteries of migraine. She added, “In just four years, we’ve awarded 23 grants to some of the most promising investigators – and we know they’re going to make a difference,” said Cathy Glaser, Migraine Research Foundation president and co-founder.

Migraines, characterized by a unilateral throbbing pain and other symptoms, affect more than 36 million Americans. With 14 million experiencing migraines on a near daily basis, U.S. employers lose more than $13 million a year from lost work days. The foundation’s goal as a nonprofit organization is to end the debilitating pain of migraine by funding research into its causes and better treatment options and to finding a cure.
Willis, a faculty member of the UNE Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences, will use a behavioral model of medication overuse headache to assess changes in blood-brain barrier marker protein expressions and vascular permeability in specific brain regions. The research he conducts will help lead to a better understanding of the role of the blood-brain barrier, which is fundamental to understanding how migraine pathophysiology develops and how chronic use of medications can impact these processes.