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Sensory neurophysiology and pain


Dr Ewan St. John Smith - Group leader

Fellow at Corpus Christi College

Member of the Naked Mole-Rat Initiative

Tel: +44 1223 334 048/334006
Fax: +44 1223 334100



neurobiology, nociception/pain, acid-sensing, ion channels

Investigator biography:

Ewan St. John Smith studied pharmacology at the University of Bath before conducting his PhD in the laboratory of Peter McNaughton FMedSci at the University of Cambridge. During this time he became interested in how sensory neurones are activated by acid, which lead to him conducting a postdoc in the laboratory of Gary Lewin in Berlin at the Max-Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine to examine the acid insensitivity of naked mole-rats, research that was funded by a research fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Pursuing interests in the evolution of chemosensing he then spent a year in the laboratory of Niels Ringstad at NYU School of Medicine, with a Max Kade Foundation fellowship, investigating how carbon dioxide activates sensory neurones in the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans.

Research in the Smith Lab is focused on understanding more about the molecular mechanisms by which stimuli activate neurones and the neuronal circuitry of behaviour. To this end, our research has two overarching aims: 

1) To elucidate mechanisms by which pain-sensing neurone (nociceptor) excitability changes from health to disease

2) To leverage the unusual phenotypes of the naked mole-rat (e.g. cancer-resistance, longevity, hypoxia/hypercapnia resistance and poikilothermy) to discover more about normal physiology in other mammals.

We use a range of techniques to investigate these areas: electrophysiology (patch-clamp and ex vivo), molecular biology, imaging, immunohistochemistry and behaviour.

I lecture on several different courses including: MVSTIB NHB/NAB, MVSTIB MoDA, NSTIB Neurobiology, NSTIB Pharmacology, NSTII Neuroscience and NSTII Pharmacology, and I am the Course Organiser for the MVSTIB MoDA course.

I am also a Fellow of Corpus Christi College where I supervise second year medics taking the MoDA course and second year NatScis taking the Pharmacology course. I am also Director of Studies for 3rd and 4th year biologists, as well as being the Custodian of the Corpus Chronophage Clock.

Ewan has recently been involved in making a short film funded by the Wellcome Trust Institutional Support Fund that explores what it means to feel pain and what impact this has in robotic development:


Lab members

 (Versus Arthritis Postdoctoral Researcher)

 (BBSRC Postdoctoral Researcher)

(Cancer Research UK Postdoctoral Researcher)

(Bowel and Cancer Research Postdoctoral Researcher)

 (PhD Student, Vice Chancellor's Award)

 (PhD Student, Gates Cambridge Trust)

(PhD Student, BBSRC DTP)

(PhD Student, AstraZeneca)

 (MPhil Student)