Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome: The evolving landscape, animal models and future perspectives

Int J Urol. 2020 Jun;27(6):491-503. doi: 10.1111/iju.14229. Epub 2020 Apr 4.


Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome is a debilitating condition of unknown etiology characterized by persistent pelvic pain with lower urinary tract symptoms and comprises a wide variety of potentially clinically useful phenotypes with different possible etiologies. Current clinicopathological and genomic evidence suggests that interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome should be categorized by the presence or absence of Hunner lesions, rather than by clinical phenotyping based on symptomatology. The Hunner lesion subtype is a distinct inflammatory disease with proven bladder etiology characterized by epithelial denudation and enhanced immune responses frequently accompanied by clonal expansion of infiltrating B cells, with potential engagement of infection. Meanwhile, the non-Hunner lesion subtype is a non-inflammatory disorder with little evidence of bladder etiology. It is potentially associated with urothelial malfunction and neurophysiological dysfunction, and frequently presents with somatic and/or psychological symptoms, that commonly result in central nervous sensitization. Animal models of autoimmune cystitis and neurogenic sensitization might serve as disease models for the Hunner lesion and non-Hunner lesion subtypes, respectively. Here, we revisit the taxonomy of interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome according to current research, and discuss its potential pathophysiology and representative animal models. Categorization of interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome based on cystoscopy is mandatory to design optimized treatment and research strategies for each subtype. A tailored approach that specifically targets the characteristic inflammation and epithelial denudation for the Hunner lesion subtype, or the urothelial malfunction, sensitized/altered nervous system and psychosocial problems for the non-Hunner lesion subtype, is essential for better clinical management and research progress in this complex condition.

Keywords: animal model; autoimmune cystitis; bladder pain syndrome; interstitial cystitis; pathophysiology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cystitis, Interstitial* / diagnosis
  • Cystitis, Interstitial* / etiology
  • Cystoscopy
  • Models, Animal
  • Pelvic Pain / etiology