A large animal neuropathic pain model in sheep: A strategy for improving the predictability of preclinical models for therapeutic development

Denise Wilkes, Guangwen Li, Carmina F. Angeles, Joel T. Patterson, Li Yen Mae Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Evaluation of analgesics in large animals is a necessary step in the development of better pain medications or gene therapy prior to clinical trials. However, chronic neuropathic pain models in large animals are limited. To address this deficiency, we developed a neuropathic pain model in sheep, which shares many anatomical similarities in spine dimensions and cerebrospinal fluid volume as humans. Methods: A neuropathic pain state was induced in sheep by tight ligation and axotomy of the common peroneal nerve. The analgesic effect of intrathecal (IT) morphine was investigated. Interspecies comparison was conducted by analyzing the ceiling doses of IT morphine for humans, sheep, and rats. Results: Peroneal nerve injury (PNI) produced an 86% decrease in von-Frey filament-evoked withdrawal threshold on postsurgery day 3 and the decrease lasted for the 8-week test period. Compared to the pre-injury, sham, and contralateral hindlimb, the IT morphine dose that produces 50% of maximum analgesia (ED50) for injured PNI hindlimb was 1.8-fold larger and Emax, the dose that produces maximal analgesia, was 6.1-fold lower. The sheep model closely predicts human IT morphine ceiling dose by allometric scaling. This is in contrast to the approximately 10-fold lower morphine ceiling dose predicted by the rat spinal nerve ligated or spared nerve injury models. Conclusion: PNI sheep model has a fast onset and shows stable and long-lasting pain behavioral characteristics. Since the antinociceptive properties of IT morphine are similar to those observed in humans, the PNI sheep model will be a useful tool for the development of analgesics. Its large size and consistent chronic pain behavior will facilitate the development and evaluation of surgical intervention and gene therapy. The PNI sheep pain model provides us with the opportunity for multi-species testing, which will improve the success of clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-424
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pain Research
StatePublished - 2012


  • Interspecies drug scaling
  • Neuropathic pain model
  • Ovine
  • Ovine pain model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'A large animal neuropathic pain model in sheep: A strategy for improving the predictability of preclinical models for therapeutic development'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this