Automated Device for Allodynia Testing and Pain Assessment

Technology Overview

Pain is a survival mechanism which is indicative of ongoing or impending damage to human tissues. One in three Americans experience chronic pain, which is estimated to cost up to $635 billion annually in the United States alone. About a fifth of these people suffer from predominantly neuropathic pain and exhibit symptoms such as allodynia, a painful response to a typically non-painful stimulus.

The high prevalence of chronic pain, particularly neuropathic pain, is due to the absence of effective treatments because of the inability to pinpoint the exact responsible pain mechanisms. Preclinical animal models are valuable tools for the study of pain mechanisms; however, pain evaluation in such models are empirical due to the lack of consistently-reliable pain assessment devices. The current standard for testing dynamic allodynia in animal models requires human applied brush strokes – this has been proven to be highly-variable and unsuitable for animal studies.

In this technology, an automated and customizable pain assessment device is developed for the measurement of pain tolerance in small animals, like mice. This automated system eliminates human influence and variability during the pain induction and assessment and is consistently reliable compared with existing technologies. The significant reduction in testing variability allows for more reliable data collection and hence, more effective pain studies to be conducted

Technology Features & Specifications

Small animal models (e.g. mice) are commonly used in pain research studies to understand the mechanisms of pain. In these studies, the response of the mice with neuropathic pain is captured and assessed. The presence of humans is also known to alter the behaviour of the mice, leading to unreliable results. This system automates pain testing and allows the operator to perform the experiment remotely, thereby eliminating human influence on the observed results. The presented device is a new standard for pain testing that enables reproducibility of results, which is a clear advantage over current technologies.

In this prototype, there are two compartments with two opposite conditions (i.e. bright and dark environment). An optical sensor is used to detect behavioural changes as the mice react to different artificially induced stimuli. Compared with manual systems, this system demonstrated a significant 86% reduction in human variability. Furthermore, the system allows concurrent testing across multiple compartments. Another feature is the easy to use software and software interface which allows for manipulation of test variables to occur while recording the animal’s behaviour. This prototype and software system is validated and ready for mass manufacture and is also available for licensing.

Potential Applications

This technology can be applied for research in pain medicine and pain sensitivity using small animal models. Lab supply companies would be able to distribute this device to their customers involved in pain research & pharmaceutical development. It can be also be useful for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies interested in drug screening research or in vivo studies.  

Market Trends and Opportunities

As an emerging healthcare issue around the world, chronic pain is estimated to incur the society at least $635 billion annually in United States alone and this can be expected to worsen with a growing aging population. With increased need to understand pain mechanisms at a molecular level for better diagnosis and treatment methods, there is increasing demand for reliable pain assessment methods using animal models. This translates to a higher demand for such devices especially when 95% of animal studies are conducted using mice. This automated pain evaluation device which produces highly quantitative and reliable results would be valuable for many pain research studies, particularly for testing quantification. 

Customer Benefits

New Standard: This device meets a current gap in the market for a reliable and standardized method of pain evaluation in pain research studies.

Autonomous: The fully automated system is designed to minimize human interaction with live animals, thereby reducing error and generating more reliable testing results. More importantly, the system can be programmed for customized stimuli and concurrent testing of a batch of animals across multiple chambers. Even with multiple chambers, this design is meant to be long-lasting and simple to maintain, with easy to clean removable parts. Lastly, the device is easily scaled up for industrial mass manufacturing. 

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