23andMe and Grünenthal Collaboration
In recent years, research has identified associations between a person’s tolerance for pain and their ethnicity, gender or age. However, the mechanisms behind such differences in perception of pain remain unelucidated. The new collaboration between Grünenthal and personal genomics and biotechnology company, 23andMe Inc., aims to shed more light on why differences in pain perception occur by better understanding genetic factors associated with pain sensitivity, specific pain indications, and response to treatments.
Grünenthal have teamed up with 23andMe to conduct one of the largest studies of its kind in order to better understand genetic influences on pain. The study, based in the US and enrolling more than 37,000 people, started in May 2017 and combines genetic data with information on medical history and additional data from a pain tolerance test undergone by each participant.
"This collaboration demonstrates our continued commitment to pain supporting our ambition to deliver four to five new products to patients in diseases with high unmet needs by 2022, as it is Grünenthal's first step into generating Big Data which plays an increasingly important role in drug development and is essential to drive innovation. One perspective in the context of precision medicine is to use human DNA as guidance for which drugs work best in which patients. We aim to use the outcome of the study to identify starting points for the development of innovative, highly effective medicines."
Through this study we gain our first experience of pain testing at home as approximately 10,000 participants also took the time to self-administer the Cold Pressor Test: a commonly used measure that has participants immerse their hand into icy water for up to three minutes in order to gauge pain thresholds and tolerance. This test helps researchers compare pain tolerances across individuals participating in the study. Participants in the study also provide data by answering survey questions about their pain sensitivity, in addition to answering questions about drug tolerance and pain associated with past experiences and imagined scenarios.
"Results from this initiative may help advance the use of precision medicine in pain management, as scientists explore how genetics may underlie the differences and similarities among individuals, and how they experience pain"
The first results from the study will be presented at the 17th IASP World Congress on Pain in September, where the feasibility and validity of home-based research paradigms will be demonstrated. We look forward to sharing these initial results as well as further increasing our understanding of pain as the study progresses and further insights are made available.