Gut health troubles hard to digest

Concerned Australian gut health experts will meet in Melbourne to share the latest research on chronic digestive conditions that affect patients' mental health, economic productivity and everyday lives.

With more bacteria in your gut than cells in your body, problems with these bugs can lead to poor gut health, experienced by half of the nation, or even more distressing symptoms, which affect one in seven Australian adults, according to a 2019 CSIRO overview.

There are more Australians than ever with digestive diseases – including people who are suffering with every meal – while effective treatments are woefully ineffective, according to leading University of Melbourne expert Dr Lincon Stamp.

“A major concern of the research community is that digestive diseases caused by damage or loss of nerves in the gut are extremely debilitating and are having a severe impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of sufferers,” he said.

Dr Stamp and Dr Marlene Hao, of the Department of Anatomy and Physiology – alongside clinical collaborators at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Newcastle – are investigating whether replacing lost or damaged gut nerves using stem cells, can restore normal gut health.

“This could be a game-changer for thousands of people living with chronic and debilitating digestive diseases because it could provide an alternative to drug and surgical treatments that currently do not cure the disease and often do not provide long-term relief from symptoms.”

Neurospheres, a culture system composed of free-floating clusters of neural stem cells. Image: Dr Lincon Stamp.

The project, backed by the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund, will examine the potential of stem cell transplantation to treat digestive diseases such as Hirschsprung disease, gastroparesis and achalasia.

Dr Stamp will be joined by some of the country’s leading gut health researchers at a public lecture in Melbourne on 3 November. They will discuss the latest scientific evidence on gut health and what steps are being taken to try and improve the lives of sufferers.

Brains, Bowels and Bugs: a public lecture on gut health, presented by the Australasian Neurogastroenterology and Motility Association (ANGMA), will feature:

  • Dr Lincon Stamp (University of Melbourne): An introduction to the gut and a “second brain” of nerves within the gut that is crucial for controlling gut function.
  • Professor Felice Jacka (Deakin University): How the brain talks to the gut and whether diet plays a role in how you are feeling.
  • Associate Professor Andrew Holmes (University of Sydney): Understanding the Microbiome – how do the bacteria in the gut interact with your body?
  • Dr Erin Shanbahan (University of Sydney): Faecal transplants – the latest on this treatment for a variety of diseases.
  • An extended Q&A discussion session.

This is a free, hybrid event with 350 in-person tickets available for the public lecture at Spot Auditorium, University of Melbourne. Webinar tickets are also available

Register now

Dr Stamp and Dr Hao featured on RRR's Einstein A Go-Go recently to chat about the event and the gut-brain connection.

Listen now

To find out more about University of Melbourne, School of Biomedical Sciences, research on digestive diseases, including stem cell therapies, Hirschsprung disease and oesophageal achalasia, please visit: the Stamp & Hao laboratory.