Spinal cord injury: Failure of bowel control

Project Details

Following injury to the spine in which the spinal connections are severed, there is a loss of conscious control of the bowel. Therefore the bowel cannot be emptied voluntarily.

This study aims to restore bowel control following spinal cord injury (SCI). We have identified a receptor (ghrelin receptor) in the spinal cord defecation centre that upon activation causes defecation and is effective in SCI rats. An agonist of this receptor is currently being tested for effectiveness in a clinical trial in spinal cord injured patients.

The aim of the current study is to provide animal proof of principle of the effectiveness of a chemically unrelated ghrelin receptor agonist that displays reduced desensitisation to stimulate defecation in spinal cord injured rats.


Dr Brid Callaghan
Dr Leni Rivera
Dr Ruslan Pustovit
Prof John Furness.

Research Publications

Ferens DM, Habgood, MD, Saunders, NR, Tan, YH, Brown, DJ, Brock, JA, Furness, JB. Stimulation of defecation in spinal cord injured rats by a centrally acting ghrelin receptor agonist. Spinal Cord 2011; 49: 1036‐1041.

Pustovit RV, Callaghan B, Kosari S, et al. The mechanism of enhanced defecation caused by the ghrelin receptor agonist, ulimorelin. Neurogastroenterology and Motility 2014; 26: 264-271.

Research Group

Furness laboratory: Digestive physiology and nutrition

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

School Research Themes

Biomedical Neuroscience, Infection & Immunity, Molecular Mechanisms of Disease, Therapeutics & Translation

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Anatomy and Neuroscience

Unit / Centre

Furness laboratory: Digestive physiology and nutrition