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Human Guinea Pigs Could Make Testing Pain Killers Faster And Cheaper

November 9, 2012

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

There are many experiments in which an analog works just fine. After all, popular television show Mythbusters wouldn´t be where it is today without their willingness to put a dummy or a slab of bacon in harm´s way to conduct particularly dangerous experiments. To test the way the body reacts to sudden shock or any manner of ballistics, a half pig often does the trick. However, there are some experiments and studies which must be felt in order to get an accurate result. Therefore, 2 researchers from Germany have decided it´s sometimes best to roll up our sleeves and take one on the chin for science.

In a paper published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, Bruno Georg Oertel and Jörn Lötsch suggest that when it comes to testing pain killers, the best kind of guinea pig is none other than a human being.

The thought behind their experiment is simple, elementary even.

“We thought that if a pain-relieving drug was effective in a particular experimental pain model and also in a specific type of clinical pain, then the experimental model should be predictive for the particular clinical setting,” said Lötsch, who works in the Institute of Clinical Pharmacology at the Goethe-University.

Overall, they found their hypothesis was largely correct. In fact, the human experimental pain models were even better at predicting how a drug would affect patients than some had previously estimated.

“Not using these pain models in drug development seems to be unjustified, in fact they should be used routinely in drug development programs,” explained Oertel, who works in the Fraunhofer Project Group for Translational Medicine and Pharmacology.

In order to test these medications, the human models must experience some sort of pain. When animals are involved, researchers must observe the way these models react before and after the pain stimuli is introduced. While making observations is certainly a credible way to draw conclusions, the fact that these animals can´t explicitly say how they feel is a major drawback. Additionally, as different bodies have different ways to reacting to both pain and the pain medications, humans are able to give a more fine-grained response to the question: “How do you feel?”

While the hypothesis may be simple enough, according to Lötsch, the process isn´t as elementary.

“However, by analyzing the way that drugs work in experimental and clinical settings, we identified that different sets of experimental pain models, rather than single models, may be best suited to provide cost-effective yet predictive studies in analgesic drug development,” explained Lötsch.

The importance of understanding pain, the way a body reacts to it and which medications can be used to curb this pain is pivotal to the pharmacology world. According to the researchers, Americans spend anywhere from $560 billion to $635 billion per year just dealing with pain. According to Ian McGrath, the Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Pharmacology, these two German researchers are already taking a bold first step into reducing pain in the future.

“It is difficult and unusual to undertake truly translational research in pharmacology,” said McGrath.

“This will help inform thinking on the refinement of human and animal models of pain, ultimately helping the pharmaceutical industry bridge the translational gap in the pain field.”


Source: Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online



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