Investigating neutrophil-neuron interactions that modulate somatosensory processing

Dr Shafaq Sikandar (primary)
William Harvey Research Institute
Queen Mary University of London
Prof John N Wood FRS (secondary)
Wolfson Institute of Biomedical Research
University College London


Neutrophils are well-known mediators of rapid innate host defence, but several findings also suggest that neutrophils interact with sensory neurons and affect excitability of nociceptors. This project aims to identify molecular mechanisms that underpin the capacity of neutrophils to activate nociceptive neurons and modulate somatosensory processing. This project entails a combination of in vivo calcium imaging of sensory neurones in mice, image flow cytometry and PHOTseq to characterise subsets of neurons and neutrophils, as well as behavioural assays to measure somatosensation and pain in mice.


1 Alexandre, K., et al., The role of neutrophils in neuro-immune modulation. Pharmacological Research, 2020. 151: p. 104580.
2 Rittner, H.L., et al., Pain control by CXCR2 ligands through Ca2+-regulated release of opioid peptides from polymorphonuclear cells. Faseb j, 2006. 20(14): p. 2627-9.
3 Emery, E.C., et al., In vivo characterization of distinct modality-specific subsets of somatosensory neurons using GCaMP. Sci Adv, 2016. 2(11): p. e1600990.
4 Boivin, G., et al., Durable and controlled depletion of neutrophils in mice. Nat Commun, 2020. 11(1): p. 2762.
5 Sikandar, S., et al., Brain-derived neurotrophic factor derived from sensory neurons plays a critical role in chronic pain. Brain, 2018. 141(4): p. 1028-1039.

Genes, development and STEM* approaches to biology
Area of Biology
Techniques & Approaches
BioinformaticsMicroscopy / ElectrophysiologyMolecular Biology