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The William Harvey Research Institute - Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

Professor Shafaq Sikandar


Professor of Sensory Neurophysiology

Centre: Experimental Medicine and Rheumatology



ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6010-5205

Professor Shafaq Sikandar is the group leader of the Sensory Neurophysiology lab at the William Harvey Research Institute. Her research training was based on rodent and human models to study the neurophysiology of pain. Shafaq’s PhD training was in the Pharmacology department of University College London, and she continued postdoctoral training in the Anaesthesiology department of University of California San Diego and in the Wolfson Institute of Biomedical Research of UCL. In 2018 she was awarded a Versus Arthritis fellowship and appointed lecturer in sensory biology in the Centre for Experimental Medicine & Rheumatology.

The Sensory Neurophysiology lab researches neuronal mechanisms underlying the transition from acute to chronic pain, with a focus on musculoskeletal pain and neuro-immune interactions. We use in vivo and back translational approaches with mouse models in combination with molecular biology. Clinical studies are focussed on patients with post-surgical pain, arthritis, cancer pain and fibromyalgia.

Shafaq teaches on BSc modules Repair & regeneration (BMD361) / Disconnected pathways (ICM6013) and is the FMD Equality Diversity and Inclusion Lead for Communications and Engagement.


Group members

Dr Sara Caxaria (PDRA); Dr Alice Fuller (PDRA); Ms Sabah Bharde (PhD); Dr Brian Herath (PhD); Ms Romy Evans (PhD); Ms Niloofar Ketahi (PhD); Ms Petek Celik (Technician)


Key Publications

Recent research articles:

  1. Fuller AM, Luiz AP, Tian N, Arcangelleti M, Issepon F, Sexton JE, Gossage S, Wood JN and Sikandar S (2023). Gate control of pain within peripheral sensory ganglia by parvalbumin-positive proprioceptive neurons. Brain (Accepted).
  2. Caxaria S, Bharde S, Fuller AM, Evans R, Thomas B, Celik P, Dell’Accio F, Yona S, Gilroy D, Voisin MB, Wood JN, Sikandar S (2023). Neutrophils infiltrate sensory ganglia and mediate chronic widespread pain in fibromyalgia. PNAS 120(17):e2211631120.
  3. Caxaria S, Kouvatsos N, Eldridge SE, Alvarez MF, Thorup AS, Cici D, Moran AB, Arshed A, Strachan D, Carletti G, Huang A, Bharde S, Deniz M, Wils J, Thomas B, Pitzalis C, Cantatore F, Sayilekshmy M, Sikandar S, Luyten F, Pap T, Sherwood J, Day A and Dell’Accio F (2022). Disease modification and symptom relief in osteoarthritis using a mutated GCP-2/CXCL6 chemokine. EMBO Mol Med 15(1):e16218.
  4. Seullner F, Gayoso MV, Sikandar S, da Silva LM, Foensca RG and Barros GAM. Analgesic efficacy of a portable, disposable, and self-applied transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation device during migraine attacks: a real-life randomized controlled trial (2021). Pain Practice 21(8):850-858.
  5. MacDonald DM, Sikandar S, Weiss J, Pyrski M, Luiz AP, Millet Q, Emery EC, Mancini F, Iannetti GD, Zhao J, Cox JJ, Brownstone RM, Zufall F and Wood JN (2021). The mechanism of analgesia in Nav1.7 null mutants. Neuron 109(9):1497-1512.e6.
  6. Clauser L, Luiz AP, Santana-Varela S, Wood JN and Sikandar S. Sensitization of cutaneous primary afferents in bone cancer revealed by in vivo calcium imaging (2020). Cancers 12(12), 3491.
  7. Clauser L, Santana-Varela S, Wood JN and Sikandar S. Investigating the role of osteoclast activity in skeletal pain (2020). Eur J Pain doi doi: 10.1002/ejp.1662.
  8. Luiz AP, MacDonald DM, Santana-Varela S, Millet Q, Sikandar S, Wood JN and Emery EC (2019). Cold sensing by NaV1.8-negative sensory neurons. PNAS 116(9):3811-3816.
  9. Bangash MA*, Alles SRA*, Santana-Varela S*, Millet Q*, Sikandar S*, de Clauser L*, Ter Heegde F*, Habib AM* et al. (2018). Distinct transcriptional responses of mouse sensory neurons in models of human chronic pain conditions. Wellcome Open Research 3:78.
  10. Sikandar S, Lau J, Minett MS, Millet Q, Santana-Varela, Wood JN and Zhao J (2018). BDNF expressed in sensory neurones mediates the transition of acute to chronic pain. Brain 141(4):1028-1039.
  11. Habib AM*, Matsuyama A*, Okorokov AL*, Santana-Varela S*, Brais JT, Bogdanov YD, Emery EC, Follenfant M, Gossage SJ, Gras M, Humphrey J, Cann KL, Li S, Minett MS, Pereira V, Ponsolles C, Sikandar S, Torres JM, Yamaoka K, Zhao J, Komine Y, Yamamori T, Maniatis N, Panov KI, Houlden H, Ramirez JD, Bennett DL, Marsili L, Bachiocco V, Aloisi AM, Wood JN, Cox JJ (2017). A point mutation in the transcriptional regulator ZFHX2 causes pain insensitivity in humans and mice. Brain 1;141(2):365-376.

Recent research reviews/book chapters:

  1. Fuller AM, Bharde S and Sikandar S (2023). The Mechanisms and Management of Persistent Postsurgical Pain. Frontiers in Pain Research (submitted Frontiers in Pain Research).
  2. Haroun R, Wood JN and Sikandar S (2022). Mechanisms of cancer pain. Frontiers in Pain Research (Accepted).
  3. Bharde S, Caxaria S, Dell’Accio F and Sikandar S (2021). Update on pain in arthritis. Curr Opin Support Palliat Care 15(2):99-107.
  4. Marchetti MA, Sikandar S, Ferris FD, Barros GAM (2020). Spread the word: there are two opioid crises! Drugs 80(12):1147-1154.
  5. Sikandar S and Sommer C (Editor Wood JN). ‘Neurotrophins, Cytokines, and Pain’ in The Oxford Handbook of the Neurobiology of Pain. Oxford Handbooks, 2019. 



We are grateful to our generous funders:




  • Prof John Wood (UCL); Prof Guilherme Barros (UNESP)


No disclosures.

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