A new Danish pilot study finds that by slightly changing the body’s own molecules through the use of a small inhaler, certain migraine patients can either cut back on medication or even stop taking it completely.

Researchers at Aarhus University observed 11 patients who suffer from migraine with aura, a condition which involves sensory or visual disturbances before the painful headache begins. The study will now be followed by a large clinical trial.

Study author Troels Johansen, Ph.D., M.Sc., said migraines occur as part of a chain reaction during which the veins in the brain contract and the blood is unable to supply the brain with enough oxygen.

“We utilize CO2 and oxygen, which are the body’s natural molecules for mobilizing its own defense against migraine attacks. The inhaler expands the blood vessels that supply the brain with oxygen by up to 70 percent and thereby stops the destructive chain reaction,” said Johansen, adding that the treatment begins working in only a few seconds.

Johansen conducted the pilot study as part of his Ph.D. at the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University and the Headache Clinic at Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark.

One important finding was that the effect of the pain relief increased significantly with each use of the inhaler: 45 percent of participants experienced an effect the first time, and that number rose to 78 percent the second time.

“The study shows some very significant physiological effects in the body,” said Johansen, who currently teaches at the Aarhus University School of Engineering. Together with a team of employees, he has put the inhaler into production through the company BalancAir.

Since the pilot project is limited to migraine with aura and included only 11 patients, Johansen is now planning to conduct a large clinical trial that will also include migraine without aura and chronic migraine.

Migraine is the third most common disease in the world (following tooth decay and tension-type headache) with a global prevalence of around 14.7 percent (1 in 7 people). Chronic migraine affects approximately 2 percent of the world population.

Those at greatest risk for migraine include women, people between the ages of 35 and 55, low-income groups and Caucasians. Over 90 percent of migraine sufferers miss work or can’t function normally during an attack.

The findings are published in the journal Cephalalgia.

Source: Aarhus University