In a presentation at the plenary session of the 2015 American Academy of Neurology annual meeting, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, reported success in obtaining pain-sensing neurons from human patients with pain conditions for use in modeling the condition and deriving better therapeutic approaches. Human-derived neurons could soon replace traditional animal models and be used to investigate disease mechanisms with unprecedented insight, according to the research team. Study author Brian Wainger, MD, PhD, stated that the derived nociceptor neurons “are able to mimic the diversity of bona fide nociceptors, and they can model disease-relevant pathophysiologic processes like TRPV1 sensitization in inflammatory pain.”
Animal models have heretofore provided a valuable understanding of sensory physiology, but are limited in the extent to which they can capture the complexity and heterogeneity of human pain conditions. The team reported that the derived neurons successfully recapitulated the function of quintessential nociceptor receptors and channels, and that they replicated disease-relevant pathophysiologic processes. Having achieved their preliminary goals, the researchers said the stage is now set for drug screens based on in vitro disease-relevant phenotypes using human neurons and also for the development of novel treatments in the future. “We’ve seen that the derived neurons can be used to investigate disease mechanisms,” Dr. Wainger said. “We hope that these phenotypes in a dish can now be used to screen for novel treatments in a targeted, patient-specific manner.”
Read a news story about the research and presentation of findings here.