Human-like cutaneous neuropathologies associated with a porcine model of pe-ripheral neuritis: a translational platform for neuropathic pain

Despite enormous investment in research and development of novel treatments, there remains a lack of predictable, effective, and safe therapeutics for human chronic neuropathic pain (NP) afflictions. NP continues to increase among the population and treatments remain a major unmet public health care need. In recent years, numerous costly (time and money) failures have occurred attempting to translate successful animal pain model results, typically using rodents, to human clinical trials. These continued failures point to the essential need for better animal models of human pain conditions. To address this challenge, we have previously developed a peripheral neuritis trauma (PNT) model of chronic pain induced by a proximal sciatic nerve irritation in pigs, which have a body size, metabolism, skin structure, and cutaneous innervation more similar to humans. Here, we set out to determine the extent that the PNT model presents with cutaneous neuropathologies consistent with those associated with human chronic NP afflictions. Exactly as is performed in human skin biopsies, extensive quantitative multi-molecular immunofluorescence analyses of porcine skin biopsies were performed to assess cutaneous innervation and skin structure. ChemoMorphometric Analysis (CMA) results demonstrated a significant reduction in small caliber intraepidermal nerve fiber (IENF) innervation, altered dermal vascular innervation, and aberrant analgesic/algesic neurochemical properties among epidermal keratinocytes, which are implicated in modulating sensory innervation. These comprehensive pathologic changes very closely resemble those observed from CMA of human skin biopsies collected from NP afflictions. The results indicate that the porcine PNT model is more appropriate for translational NP research compared with commonly utilized rodent models. Because the PNT model creates cutaneous innervation and keratinocyte immunolabeling alterations consistent with human NP conditions, use of this animal model for NP testing and treatment response characteristics will likely provide more realistic results to direct successful translation to humans.

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