Well, I won’t be as explicit as CPP but that’s about how I feel about them right now. I got an email from them the other day (well, I get an email from them every single day but this one was special) asking me to comment on whether a mouse pain study at McGill was compliant with IACUC rules. That caught my attention just a little bit since I was a pain researcher at McGill for 3 years. I headed on over to the page and was more than a little surprised at what I saw.
I suppose that the purpose of such posts on their site is to help sell their products, whatever those are, and they think their products are going to be helpful to PIs such as myself. Safe to say that I wasn’t interested before and I’m certainly not interested now. The post is about whether the development of the mouse grimace scale, a method to measure affective components of pain in mice, was compliant with McGill’s Animal Care and Use Committee (ACUC) rules. I’m not sure exactly what they’re arguing but it appears to be a pretty one-sided affair and the comments are fairly vitriolic with some threats leveled against the McGill researchers. Great way to sell products to basic scientists doing animal research…
The thing that really gets me about the whole thing (aside from the fact that they are putting my friends and colleagues in danger) is that they completely ignore the scientific findings of the report and the rationale for doing the study in the first place. All of this is straightforward if you take even a glance at the paper.
The central problem facing pain researchers today is that most clinically available analgesics aare either ineffective or have intolerable side-effect profiles. This means that new analgesics are sorely needed to treat chronic pain conditions. Unfortunately, we have another major problem. Most preclinical models rely on reflex measures of pain (like thermal and mechanical withdrawal thresholds) but this is not the major complaint of pain patients. Their major complaints are spontaneous pain and affective components of pain. Our preclinical models do not do a good job of measuring this. The purpose of the research in question was to develop and validate a way to measure affective pain measures in mice (the major model species used in pain research). The authors show that the mouse facial grimace scale does this and brain lesion studies, included in the work, clearly show that brain areas known to be involved in affective components of pain in humans are also critical for facial expressions of pain in mice. In my view, this is a major advance insofar as it gives us a simple and reliable method to measure something we cannot currently ascertain with any degree of accuracy. Testing novel analgesics with this method could lead to novel drugs that not only reduce thermal and mechanical pain but that also are capable of targeting the major complaint of humans with chronic pain conditions. This is important. Pain is the number one reason people seek medical attention and upwards of 50% of people who seek pain relief report that analgesics administered do not adequately relieve their pain.
None of this is mentioned by the Principal Investigators post. Instead, they distort or ignore the purpose of the research (shafting the entire pain research community in the process) and inflame this by using the term “severe” out of context. If you take a look at the paper they use that term in reference to the facial expression units and not in terms of pain severity. In fact, based on analgesics (e.g. NSAIDs) that can completely attenuate all of these pain measures one would be forced to conclude that these pain models do not involve severe pain at all.
So here we have an excellent example of a company supposedly hoping to offer a service to basic scientists instead drumming up controversy and potentially creating a very dangerous situation for people trying to do work to develop better analgesics to help people in pain. Not cool, not cool at all!