About the Centre for Cluster Headache

The main goal of our research is to understand the molecular and genetic mechanisms behind cluster headache, as well as to identify new targets for diagnosis and treatment. The Centre for Cluster Headache includes all research at Karolinska Institutet regarding cluster headache and offers a well-integrated collaboration between research and clinical operations.

Centre for Cluster Headaches at Karolinska Institutet has been made possible through a generous donation by the business leader and philanthropist Rune Andersson through his foundation Mellby Gård.

Rune Andersson is the founder and chairman of the board of Mellby Gård AB and has previously donated, among other things, to Chalmers University and to the soccer team Trelleborg FF.


Cluster headache is a primary headache disorder and we currently lack a full-scale understanding of the underlying causes of the disease. It has a prevalence of 0.5 to 1 per 1,000 patients, which means that approximately 5,000 to 10,000 individuals suffer from the disease in Sweden today. This, in turn, corresponds to between three to seven million people in the world.

Currently, there are no drugs that have been specifically developed for cluster headache. The acute and prophylactic treatments that are available have been developed for other diseases and work suboptimally, with low treatment response (50 percent for acute treatment).

The aim of creating a cluster headache research center is to combine preclinical and clinical research. By working in parallel, progress and breakthroughs will be able to reach patients more quickly. The formation of the center will also facilitate international collaborations and rapid exchanges of knowledge. The goal is for the center to become world-unique in cluster headache research.

Karolinska Institutet has the conditions required for a centre of this kind; modern research environments, a well-developed contact with healthcare as well as a completely unique biobank with biological samples and clinical information from patients diagnosed with cluster headache and neurologically healthy controls.

Carmine Belin Laboratory

Andrea Carmine Belin and her research group have established this biobank, which is used to apply knowledge of various key biological systems to be able to identify and investigate genetic markers linked to cluster headache.

A genetic marker is a change in the genome (which can lead to altered protein formation and/or function).

The team has performed a so-called whole-genome association study (GWAS) using the biobank where genetic markers across the entire human genome were screened and compared in patients and controls and connections between genetic regions and cluster headache were identified.

The next step will be to identify genes and study their function as well as possible genetic differences with regard to e.g., drug effect, subtype, gender, age of onset and symptoms. Genetic connections will be validated by quantifying possible biological effects caused by genetic markers linked to disease both in computer models and in biological samples from patients and controls.

Future plans

The center also plans to develop brain cells involved in cluster headache to study the effect of drugs and gene in disease-specific tissue from patients and controls.

Since cluster headache attacks often occur at specific times of the day, the activity of the genes will be studied during different time-points over the day, in tissue from patients as well as in healthy individuals.

The next step will be to investigate whether drugs can affect the circadian rhythm, this is done to find out if they should be taken at specific times for better effect, so-called chronotherapy. In addition to this, sleep quality and mental health in relation to cluster headaches will be studied, as well as genetic and clinical differences with respect to gender, triggering factors, treatment, etc.

Steering Committee

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Andrea Carmine Belin

Chair, Associate Professor
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Ida Nilsson

Senior Research Specialist
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Caroline Ran

Research Specialist
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Christina Sjöstrand

Adjunct Senior Lecturer
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Katrin Wellfelt

Laboratory Coordinator
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