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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2006 Nov;319(2):507-14. Epub 2006 Jun 2.

Preclinical assessment of candidate analgesic drugs: recent advances and future challenges.

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  • 1Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Center, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 115 Mill St., Belmont, MA 02478-9106, USA.


In analgesic drug development, preclinical procedures are widely used to assess drug effects on pain-related behaviors. These procedures share two principal components: 1) a manipulation intended to produce a pain-like state in the experimental subject and 2) measurement of behaviors presumably indicative of that pain state. Drugs can then be evaluated for their ability to attenuate pain-related behaviors. In the simplest procedures, the pain state is produced by delivery of an acute noxious stimulus (e.g., a warm thermal stimulus), and the primary dependent measures focus on withdrawal responses or other nocifensive behaviors that increase in rate, frequency, or intensity in response to the noxious stimulus. This approach has been refined in two ways. First, new methods have been developed to induce more clinically relevant pain states. In particular, pain requiring clinical intervention is often associated with inflammation or neuropathy, and novel procedures have emerged to model these conditions and their ability to produce hypersensitive pain states, such as allodynia and hyperalgesia. Second, studies are incorporating a broader array of pain-related behaviors as dependent measures. For example, pain not only stimulates nocifensive behaviors but also suppresses many adaptive behaviors, such as feeding or locomotion. Measures of pain-suppressed behaviors can provide new insights into the behavioral consequences of pain and the effects of candidate analgesics. In addition, functional magnetic resonance imaging has emerged as a noninvasive tool for investigating changes in neural activity associated with pain and analgesia. Integration of these complementary approaches may improve the predictive validity of analgesic drug development.

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