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A systematic review of porcine models in translational pain research


Translating basic pain research from rodents to humans has proven to be a challenging task. Efforts have been made to develop preclinical large animal models of pain, such as the pig. However, no consistent overview and comparison of pig models of pain are currently available. Therefore, in this review, our primary aim was to identify the available pig models in pain research and compare these models in terms of intensity and duration. First, we systematically searched Proquest, Scopus and Web of Science and compared the duration for which the pigs were significantly sensitized as well as the intensity of mechanical sensitization. We searched models within the specific field of pain and adjacent fields in which pain induction or assessment is relevant, such as pig production. Second, we compared assessment methodologies in surrogate pain models in humans and pigs to identify areas of overlap and possible improvement. Based on the literature search, 23 types of porcine pain models were identified; 13 of which could be compared quantitatively. The induced sensitization lasted from hours to months and intensities ranged from insignificant to the maximum attainable. We also found a near to complete overlap of assessment methodologies between human and pig models within the area of peripheral neurophysiology, which allows for direct comparison of results obtained in the two species. In spite of this overlap, further development of pain assessment methodologies is still needed. We suggest that central nervous system electrophysiology, such as electroencephalography, electrocorticography or intracortical recordings, may pave the way for future objective pain assessment.

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Fig. 1: Flowchart of the literature search.
Fig. 2: Increasing interest in research investigating pain in pigs.
Fig. 3: The duration and intensity of mechanical sensitization after surgery50,51,52, after application of an inflammatory agent55,57,58,59,61 or in irreversible models of pain34,62,97.
Fig. 4: The duration and intensity of mechanical sensitization for lameness induced by kaolin67, amphotericin B66,68,69 and natural lameness104.
Fig. 5: Overview of the different identified pain assessment methods.


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The Center for Neuroplasticity and Pain (CNAP) is supported by the Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF121).

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S. Meijs conceived the original work, carried out data acquisition, analysis and interpretation, wrote the draft and revised the manuscript. M.S and S. Meijlin revised the manuscript according to their expertise. W.J. contributed to conceiving the work, interpreting data, writing the draft and revising the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Suzan Meijs.

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Meijs, S., Schmelz, M., Meilin, S. et al. A systematic review of porcine models in translational pain research. Lab Anim (2021).

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