Human Pain Models

We offer a wide range of high quality services for clinical pharmacology. Our scientific focus is on pain, analgesia, smell and taste. In addition, we have gained experience in a variety of major therapeutic areas through our close cooperation with university hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry.

Our areas of expertise:

  • Pain and Analgesia
  • Central nervous system
  • Olfaction and Gustation
  • Respiratory drug reactions
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Metabolism
  • Genetics and epigenetics

Clinical studies

We specialize in the planning, implementation, evaluation and interpretation of data-intensive early phases of clinical trials, in which a basic understanding of the characteristics of new compounds can be obtained. These include types of studies, such as

  • First-in-human
  • Proof-of-concept
  • PK / PD modeling

Biomarker development

Biomarkers play an important role in the control and monitoring of therapeutic intervention. We develop new biomarkers that reflect changes in physiological processes induced by drugs and thereby, permit monitoring of the success of therapy. In addition, on the basis of the biomarker data, we develop new technologies to automatically collate, control and process the data in order to facilitate rapid evaluation. A variety of continuously updated technologies and methods are available for this purpose:


Pain and Analgesia

  • Heat pain:
    • Contact heat
    • Thulium laser heat
  • Cold pain
  • Electrical pain
  • Dull and acute tenderness (e.g. pinprick, von Frey)
  • Trigeminal pain (CO2 stimuli to the nasal mucosa)
  • Measurement of pain sensitivity and sensation by means of Quantitative Sensory Testing (QST, certified according to criteria of the German Research Network on Neuropathic Pain DFNS)
  • Induction of experimental hyperalgesia ( "Freeze Lesion", UVB, capsaicin, hypertonic solutions)
  • Evaluation of the pain state using standardized and validated questionnaires (for example, McGill, German pain questionnaire)


  • Pupillography (mobile and stationary)
  • EEG (256 channels), Evoked Potentials
  • MRI, fMRI, pharmMRI, DT-MRI

Smell and Taste

  • Olfactometry
    • Targeted use of types and concentrations olfactory stimuli to the nasal mucosa by means olfactometer
    • "Sniffin 'Sticks" test
  • Gustometry
    • „Taste strips"

Pulmonary system

  • Continuous monitoring of basic vital respiratory parameters (respiratory rate, minute ventilation)
  • "Hypercapnic Challenge" test according to Read
  • Blood oxygen saturation (pO2) and carbon dioxide (pCO2)

Cardiovascular system

  • Continuous ECG
  • MRI


  • Microdialysis and punch biopsies (e.g. analysis of inflammatory markers from capsaicin or UVB-treated skin)
  • LC-MS / MS analysis (e.g. inflammatory markers)

Genetics and epigenetics

  • Next-generation sequencing
  • Pyrosequencing (analysis of genetic variants and DNA methylation patterns)

Selected Publications

Walter, C., et al., Brain Mapping-Based Model of Delta-Tetrahydrocannabinol Effects on Connectivity in the Pain Matrix. Neuropsychopharmacology, 2015.

Oertel, B.G., et al., Cytochrome P450 epoxygenase dependence of opioid analgesia: fluconazole does not interfere with remifentanil-mediated analgesia in human subjects. Clin Pharmacol Ther, 2014. 96(6): p. 684-93

Lötsch, J., B.G. Oertel, and A. Ultsch, Human models of pain for the prediction of clinical analgesia. Pain, 2014. 155(10): p. 2014-21.

Oertel, B.G. and J. Lötsch, Clinical pharmacology of analgesics assessed with human experimental pain models: bridging basic and clinical research. Br J Pharmacol, 2013. 168(3): p. 534-53.