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Personal profile


I joined Aston university as a lecturer in neuroscience in 2017. Prior to that, I was a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen after a period of independent research funded by an MRC new investigator award at the University of Cambridge. I carried out my postdoctoral research with Prof. Peter McNaughton at the University of Cambridge after received a Ph.D degree in China.


  • 2017-present, lecturer, Aston university
  • 2014-2016, Lecturer, University of Aberdeen
  • 2009-2013, MRC independent research fellow, University of Cambridge
  • 2002-2008, Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Cambridge

Teaching Activity

  • System neuropharmacology NE2002
  • Key skills in neuroscience NE1003
  • Neuropharmacology PH3601
  • Introduction to physiology and pharmacology MS1000
  • Molecular basis of pain NE3005


FHEA, Aston University, 2018

Ph.D, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology 2001

Membership of Professional Bodies

British Neuroscience Association

The Physiological Society

Funding Applications and Awards



Versus Arthritis

Royal society 


Research Interests

I am interested in the molecular mechanisms of pain and itch. Pain is one of the most common medical conditions affecting quality of life of many patients. Pain signals are generated by specialized sensory receptors (or nociceptors) on peripheral sensory nerve endings followed by transmission via afferent nerve fibres to the brain where pain is interpreted. Damage to and interference with the pain pathway can markedly affect pain sensation, leading to either enhanced pain (hyperalgesia) or pain inhibition (analgesia). Notably, a family of Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) ion channels (e.g. TRPV1, TRPA1) have emerged as critical sensory nociceptors responsible for detecting noxious thermal, chemical and mechanical stimuli. TRP ion channels have thus become targets for analgesics.

The first line of my research is to investigate the function and modulation of TRP ion channels in sensory neurons under physiological and disease conditions, and how they contribute to hyperalgesia. This research has led to several high impact publications, such as Neuron, Nature Cell Biology, EMBO J and Journal of Neuroscience. They have promoted our understanding of molecular underpinnings of pain with therapeutic implications.

The second aspect of my research is to decipher the molecular links between the pain signalling system and the metabolic system. Pain sensitivity is influenced by the body metabolic status. Indeed, pain is often reported in old people known to have a lower metabolic rate. Metabolic disorders such as diabetic neuropathy are often associated with enhanced pain sensitivity. Reciprocally, pain signalling modulates body metabolism and promotes diet-induced obesity. Understanding how pain sensitivity is determined by the metabolic status offers a unique means to unravel the mechanisms of pain and to identify novel therapeutic targets.

The third area of interest is to understand the mechanisms of itch (pruritus). Itch is another somatic sensation and is a common symptom associated with many diseases such as cholestatic liver disease and diabetes. Itch is closely linked to pain, but is transduced via distinct neural pathways. Interestingly, TRP ion channels, such as TRPV1 and TRPA1, not only mediate pain, but also carry itch. We are interested in the molecules and signalling pathways that mediate itch. We use electrophysiology, molecular biology, protein biochemistry and imaging combined with behavioural approaches to address our queries.

Contact Details

Telephone: +44 (0) 121 204 4828
Email:  x.zhang39@aston.ac.uk
Room: MB434N



  • RM Therapeutics. Pharmacology
  • QP Physiology

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Research Output

  • 15 Article
  • 3 Review article
  • 1 Letter, comment or opinion

Direct Gα q Gating Is the Sole Mechanism for TRPM8 Inhibition Caused by Bradykinin Receptor Activation

Zhang, X., 18 Jun 2019, In : Cell Reports. 27, 12, p. 3672-3683.e4

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
  • Ca2+ regulation of TRP ion channels

    Hasan, R. & Zhang, X., 23 Apr 2018, In : International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 19, 4, 1256.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

    Open Access
  • Calmodulin is responsible for Ca2+-dependent regulation of TRPA1 channels

    Hasan, R., Leeson-Payne, A. T. S., Jaggar, J. H. & Zhang, X., 23 Mar 2017, In : Scientific Reports. 7, 12 p., 45098.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • Potential role of CXCL10/CXCR3 signaling in the development of morphine tolerance in periaqueductal gray

    Wang, W., Peng, Y., Yang, H., Bu, H., Guo, G., Liu, D., Shu, B., Tian, X., Luo, A., Zhang, X. & Gao, F., 1 Oct 2017, In : Neuropeptides. 65, p. 120-127

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • Spinal CX3CL1/CX3CR1 may not directly participate in the development of morphine tolerance in rats

    Peng, Y., Guo, G., Shu, B., Liu, D., Su, P., Zhang, X. & Gao, F., 1 Nov 2017, In : Neurochemical Research. 42, 11, p. 3254–3267

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access