Neural control of intestinal inflammation – therapies for inflammatory bowel disease

Project Details

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is common, chronic and debilitating; treatments are variably successful, costly and can lose effectiveness over time.  A major form of IBD, Crohn’s Disease, almost always recurs, even after the affected region has been surgically removed.  Patients and their families are desperate for new, effective treatments that are safe and have limited side effects.

This project represents a dramatic paradigm shift. We are systematically investigating the pathways of neuroimmune interactions in the intestine, including vagal, sympathetic and enteric nervous system pathways.  We are closely comparing neuro-immune changes that are associated with active inflammation and remission both in human and in an animal model.

The project involves a team of neuroscientists, physiologists, clinicians and bioengineers working closely together.


  • Project supervisors: Ms Madeleine Di Natale, Professor John Furness
  • Project members: Ms Madeleine Di Natale, Professor John Furness, Dr Robin McAllen, Dr Michael McKinley, Dr Katie Davey (Biomedical Engineering), Professor Scott Mueller (Doherty Institute)


Dr Britt Christensen and Dr Aysha Al-Ani (Royal Melbourne Hospital)

Dr Luis Populin (Univ Wisconsin)

Dr Colin Reardon (UCSF)

Research Publications

Payne, SC, Furness, JB, Burns, O, Sedo, A, Hyakumura, T, Shepherd, RK, Fallon, JB,: Anti-inflammatory effects of abdominal vagus nerve stimulation on experimental intestinal inflammation.  Frontiers Neuroscience 13, 418, 1-15 (2019).  Doi:  10.3389/fnins.2019.00418

Populin L, Stebbing MJ, Furness JB: Neuronal regulation of the gut immune system and neuromodulation for treating inflammatory bowel disease. FASEB Bioreviews 3, 953–966 (2021) Doi:10.1096/fba.2021-00070

Research Group

Furness laboratory: Digestive physiology and nutrition

Faculty Research Themes

Neuroscience, Infection and Immunology

Key Contact

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

Department / Centre

Anatomy and Physiology

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