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Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes
Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes

Identification of novel combinations of analgesic drugs for an efficient and safe pain relief.

Department of Biomedical Science

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Dr M Nassar Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Pain is an important warning system to guard against tissue damage. Pathological pain, however, has no warning value and has huge economical, social and personal costs on society. Sensory neurons of the Dorsal Root Ganglia (DRG) detect painful stimuli and transmit sensory information to regions of the CNS that perceive pain. Pain scientists study DRG neurons in order to delineate pain signalling in order to discover new analgesic drug targets. Primary cultures of DRG neurons are used to study their excitability and functional properties and how they are changed by tissue damage. In addition, primary cultures of DRG neurons are used in pharmaceutical research to screen for and test potential analgesic compounds.
Reliable, efficient and informative functional assays are important for drug discovery and testing. We have recently developed an unbiased, efficient and high content assay to assess the excitability of cultured DRG neurons [1; 2] . This assay is simple to undertake but generates a wealth of data including baseline calcium signal, number of responding neurons, size of response, onset of response, size and pharmacological profile of responding neurons. Our assay also allows us to observe changes to the silent population of neurons (not usually activate).
The aim of the project is to test the efficacy of novel combinations of pain drugs to produce the most efficient reduction of the excitability of pain neurons. We have preliminary data on possible combinations that show an additive effect, that we want to confirm. We are also happy for combination suggested by the candidate student. The work will start in vitro and then the best combinations will be tested in vivo.

Science Graduate School
As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you’ll be part of the Science Graduate School. You’ll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You’ll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience the breadth of technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit to learn more.

Funding Notes

First class or upper second 2(i) in a relevant subject. To formally apply for a PhD, you must complete the University's application form using the following link:

*All applicants should ensure that both references are uploaded onto their application as a decision will be unable to be made without this information*.


[1] Mohammed Z, Kaloyanova K, Nassar MA. An unbiased and efficient assessment of excitability of sensory neurons for analgesic drug discovery. Pain 2020.
[2] Mohammed ZA, Doran C, Grundy D, Nassar MA. Veratridine produces distinct calcium response profiles in mouse Dorsal Root Ganglia neurons. Sci Rep 2017;7:45221.

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