Progressing into a new paradigm: how we must leave the past behind if we want a change in pain research outcomes


Chronic pain is a complex experience and studies to test the efficacy of new drugs need to mimic human pain conditions.

A new article published by Dr Russo and colleagues highlights the need for a new approach to translational pain research – to see more laboratory research discoveries successfully ‘translated’ into medical practice.

Currently, most new pain drugs that appear promising in animal studies fail in clinical trials. This is mainly due to inherent differences between animal and human physiology and behaviours, or intolerable side effects. Consequently, substantial resources are expended, leaving patients without new and effective treatment alternatives.

A major part of the problem is in the design of animal studies. Researchers often rely on animal models and experimental tests that poorly mimic human pain conditions. Often, the focus is on assessing an animal’s pain threshold. However, chronic pain is a complex experience with various important aspects, such as impact on functional capacity, motivation, and well-being.

To address this, Dr Russo advocates for a shift in focus towards a more comprehensive evaluation of pain that includes multiple behavioural tests. Certain animal behaviours, such as voluntary wheel running, burrowing, and foraging, can be measured to provide a good indication of a drug’s potential to improve these broader outcomes.

The full article is available online here.

Hopefully [this paper] will stimulate holistic functional measures being added as standard to animal pain models. It’s time to change!

Dr Russo

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