Assistant Professor, Department of Symptom Research
B.S., The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, United Kingdom
Ph.D., The University of Manchester, United Kingdom
Work in the Shepherd Lab focuses on how injury, inflammation, and cancer interact with the nervous system to cause pain. We are particularly interested in how chronic illnesses disrupt the immune system, thereby increasing pain risk. Macrophages, a type of immune cell, are important contributors to pain. Macrophages infiltrate damaged tissue to clear debris and infection. Ordinarily, this process eventually resolves, promoting healing. We hypothesize that chronic pain often stems from macrophages failing to make this transition from a “damage response” to a “pro-repair” state. In such cases, macrophages continually sustain inflammation, causing nearby nerves to remain hyper-excitable and drive chronic pain. Our knowledge of these mechanisms is surprisingly limited, a problem that is set to become more widespread as chronic illnesses and cancer survivorship improve. We hope that improving our understanding of these “neuro-immune” interactions will identify novel therapeutic targets and facilitate the development of safe and effective analgesics.