Preclinical toxicity evaluation of AAV for pain: Evidence from human AAV studies and from the pharmacology of analgesic drugs

Josef Pleticha, Lukas F. Heilmann, Christopher H. Evans, Aravind Asokan, Richard J. Samulski, Andreas S. Beutler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Gene therapy with adeno-associated virus (AAV) has advanced in the last few years from promising results in animal models to >100 clinical trials (reported or under way). While vector availability was a substantial hurdle a decade ago, innovative new production methods now routinely match the scale of AAV doses required for clinical testing. These advances may become relevant to translational research in the chronic pain field. AAV for pain targeting the peripheral nervous system was proven to be efficacious in rodent models several years ago, but has not yet been tested in humans. The present review addresses the steps needed for translation of AAV for pain from the bench to the bedside focusing on pre-clinical toxicology. We break the potential toxicities into three conceptual categories of risk: First, risks related to the delivery procedure used to administer the vector. Second, risks related to AAV biology, i.e., effects of the vector itself that may occur independently of the transgene. Third, risks related to the effects of the therapeutic transgene. To identify potential toxicities, we consulted the existing evidence from AAV gene therapy for other nervous system disorders (animal toxicology and human studies) and from the clinical pharmacology of conventional analgesic drugs. Thereby, we identified required preclinical studies and charted a hypothetical path towards a future phase I/II clinical trial in the oncology-palliative care setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number54
JournalMolecular Pain
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2 2014


  • Adeno-associated virus
  • Beta-endorphin
  • Gene therapy
  • Interleukin-10
  • Pain
  • Toxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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