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Standard Phenotypes Will Aid in Genetic Research on Neuropathic Pain

Research on the genetic factors contributing to neuropathic pain has been hindered by the lack of a standard approach to assessing its clinical characteristics or “phenotype.” Now, a report from an expert panel published in the journal PAIN ® presents a consensus approach to assessing the phenotype of neuropathic pain. The journal is the official publication of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) and is published by Wolters Kluwer.

Standardized “entry level” criteria for defining the phenotype of neuropathic pain were developed by an international panel of experts assembled by the IASP’s Special Interest Group on Neuropathic Pain (NeuPSIG). Along with other recommendations for research reporting, the consensus criteria will achieve “greater consistency and transparency in studies of neuropathic pain in adult humans.” Dr. Blair H. Smith of the University of Dundee, Scotland, is lead author of the expert panel report.

Setting Standard Criteria to Define Neuropathic Pain Phenotypes
Neuropathic pain is a common and complex pain condition caused by damage or diseases of the sensory nerves. Patients may experience shooting or burning pain, numbness, or exaggerated pain responses. Neuropathic pain can be caused by diabetes, trauma, shingles, and a wide range of other conditions.

Information on genetic factors may help in understanding how neuropathic pain develops, leading to new approaches to treatment and prevention. But so far, genetic studies have produced inconsistent results that are difficult to confirm. This is partly because of differing approaches used to identify and classify the clinical expression and characteristics of this condition, which can vary widely.

To address this problem, the expert panel “aimed to provide guidelines on collecting and reporting phenotypes” of neuropathic pain. After a thorough review of previous research evidence, panel members followed a formal consensus process to develop a set of “entry level” phenotype data to identify and classify patients with neuropathic pain, as well as appropriate comparison (control) groups.

Following this process, the NeuPSIG panel identified three basic elements:

  • Pain with neuropathic characteristics (described as “hot/burning” or “evoked by light touch”) or assessed using a validated screening tool
  • Pain distributed or located in a pattern that is anatomically consistent with underlying nerve damage or disease (in other words, the pain is consistent with the anatomy of the affected sensory nerves)
  • Additional information on pain history and characteristics and other factors relevant to the disease or group of patients being studied

Reflecting the challenges of diagnosing neuropathic pain, the report emphasizes that these “entry level” criteria identify only “possible” cases of neuropathic pain. Depending on the situation, additional criteria could be used to identify “probable” or “definite” cases, or additional sensory or psychological assessments could be conducted to further characterize the phenotype.

The new criteria are published as IASP concludes its 2014-2015 Global Year Against Neuropathic Pain campaign. By improving awareness among patients and health-care providers, IASP hopes to improve recognition and management of this disabling and difficult-to-treat condition.

The consensus phenotype criteria will be an important step toward a more productive approach to studying the genetic factors contributing to neuropathic pain, the NeuPSIG panel members believe. They conclude, “These improvements will facilitate advancements in the field by enabling collaboration between research groups, replication of discoveries of contributing genetic variants, meta-analyses, and translation from the laboratory to the general population, and back again.”

Click here to read "Neuropathic pain phenotyping by international consensus (NeuroPPIC) for genetic studies: a NeuPSIG systematic review, Delphi survey, and expert panel recommendations."

Article: "Neuropathic pain phenotyping by international consensus (NeuroPPIC) for genetic studies: a NeuPSIG systematic review, Delphi survey, and expert panel recommendations" (doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000335)

About PAIN
PAIN is IASP's official journal. Published monthly, PAIN presents original research on the nature, mechanisms, and treatment of pain. Available to IASP members as a membership benefit, this peer-reviewed journal provides a forum for the dissemination of multidisciplinary research in the basic and clinical sciences. It is cited in Current Contents and Index Medicus.

About the International Association for the Study of Pain
IASP is the leading professional forum for science, practice, and education in the field of pain. Membership is open to all professionals involved in research, diagnosis, or treatment of pain. IASP has more than 7,000 members in 133 countries, 90 national chapters, and 20 Special Interest Groups. IASP brings together scientists, clinicians, health-care providers, and policymakers to stimulate and support the study of pain and translate that knowledge into improved pain relief worldwide.

About Wolters Kluwer
Wolters Kluwer is a global leader in professional information services. Professionals in the areas of legal, business, tax, accounting, finance, audit, risk, compliance, and healthcare rely on Wolters Kluwer's market leading information-enabled tools and software solutions to manage their business efficiently, deliver results to their clients, and succeed in an ever more dynamic world.

Wolters Kluwer reported 2014 annual revenues of €3.7 billion. The group serves customers in over 170 countries, and employs over 19,000 people worldwide. The company is headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands. Wolters Kluwer shares are listed on Euronext Amsterdam (WKL) and are included in the AEX and Euronext 100 indices. Wolters Kluwer has a sponsored Level 1 American Depositary Receipt program. The ADRs are traded on the over-the-counter market in the U.S. (WTKWY).

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