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Reproducibility of the heat/capsaicin skin sensitization model in healthy volunteers

Authors Cavallone LF, Frey K, Montana MC, Joyal J, Regina KJ, Petersen KL, Gereau IV RW

Received 23 August 2013

Accepted for publication 14 September 2013

Published 7 November 2013 Volume 2013:6 Pages 771—784


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 5

Video abstract presented by Laura F Cavallone

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Laura F Cavallone,1 Karen Frey,1 Michael C Montana,1 Jeremy Joyal,1 Karen J Regina,1 Karin L Petersen,2 Robert W Gereau IV1

1Department of Anesthesiology, Washington University in St Louis, School of Medicine, St Louis, MO, USA; 2California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, San Francisco, CA, USA

Introduction: Heat/capsaicin skin sensitization is a well-characterized human experimental model to induce hyperalgesia and allodynia. Using this model, gabapentin, among other drugs, was shown to significantly reduce cutaneous hyperalgesia compared to placebo. Since the larger thermal probes used in the original studies to produce heat sensitization are now commercially unavailable, we decided to assess whether previous findings could be replicated with a currently available smaller probe (heated area 9 cm2 versus 12.5–15.7 cm2).
Study design and methods: After Institutional Review Board approval, 15 adult healthy volunteers participated in two study sessions, scheduled 1 week apart (Part A). In both sessions, subjects were exposed to the heat/capsaicin cutaneous sensitization model. Areas of hypersensitivity to brush stroke and von Frey (VF) filament stimulation were measured at baseline and after rekindling of skin sensitization. Another group of 15 volunteers was exposed to an identical schedule and set of sensitization procedures, but, in each session, received either gabapentin or placebo (Part B).
Results: Unlike previous reports, a similar reduction of areas of hyperalgesia was observed in all groups/sessions. Fading of areas of hyperalgesia over time was observed in Part A. In Part B, there was no difference in area reduction after gabapentin compared to placebo.
Conclusion: When using smaller thermal probes than originally proposed, modifications of other parameters of sensitization and/or rekindling process may be needed to allow the heat/capsaicin sensitization protocol to be used as initially intended. Standardization and validation of experimental pain models is critical to the advancement of translational pain research.

Keywords: experimental pain model, hyperalgesia, peripheral sensitization, central sensitization

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