In common with other chronic pain conditions, there is an unmet clinical need in the treatment of inherited erythromelalgia (IEM). TheSCN9Agene encoding the sodium channel Nav1.7 expressed in the peripheral nervous system plays a critical role in IEM. A gain-of-function mutation in this sodium channel leads to aberrant sensory neuronal activity and extreme pain, particularly in response to heat. Five patients with IEM were treated with a new potent and selective compound that blocked the Nav1.7 sodium channel resulting in a decrease in heat-induced pain in most of the patients. We derived induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines from four of five subjects and produced sensory neurons that emulated the clinical phenotype of hyperexcitability and aberrant responses to heat stimuli. When we compared the severity of the clinical phenotype with the hyperexcitability of the iPSC-derived sensory neurons, we saw a trend toward a correlation for individual mutations. The in vitro IEM phenotype was sensitive to Nav1.7 blockers, including the clinical test agent. Given the importance of peripherally expressed sodium channels in many pain conditions, our approach may have broader utility for a wide range of pain and sensory conditions.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01769274.
Copyright © 2016, American Association for the Advancement of Science.