Protecting the gut from the damaging consequences of obesity

Project Details

Obesity is considered to be a global epidemic, with prevalence increasing at an alarming rate in many parts of the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) over 2.1 billion adults were estimated to be obese or overweight in 2016, with worldwide prevalence of obesity doubling since 19801. In Australia, two-thirds of the adult population is obese or overweight.

Damage at the level of the gut in obesity or in response to obesogenic diets has been associated with increased intestinal permeability, often referred to as “leaky gut”6. Strong evidence points to gut leakiness, and consequent entry of endotoxins, as a contributing factor in the initiation of systemic low-grade chronic inflammation7 and organ damage.

In this project determine whether protection of enteric neurons and the intestinal barrier can improve gut symptoms and impede chronic low-grade inflammation associated with obesity using a clinically approved therapeutic compound.


  • Project supervisor: Dr Rachel McQuade
  • Project members: Professor John Furness, Therese Fazio Coles

Research Publications

McQuade RM, Stojanovska V, Donald E, Abalo R, Bornstein J, Nurgali K.Gastrointestinal dysfunction and enteric neurotoxicity following treatment with anticancer chemotherapeutic agent 5‐fluorouracil, Neurogastroenterology & Motility. 2016;28(12):1861-75.

McQuade RM, SCarbone SE, Stojanovska V, Rahman A, Gwynne RM, Robinson AM, Goodman CA, Bornstein JC, Nurgali K.Role of oxidative stress in oxaliplatin‐induced enteric neuropathy and colonic dysmotility in mice, British Journal of Pharmacology. 2016;173(24):3502-21.

McQuade RM, Stojanovska V, Stavely R, Timpani C, Petersen AC, Abalo R, Bornstein JC, Rybalka E, Nurgali K.Oxaliplatin‐induced enteric neuronal loss and intestinal dysfunction is prevented by co‐treatment with BGP‐15, British Journal of Pharmacology. 2018;175(4):656-77.

Research Group

Furness laboratory: Digestive physiology and nutrition

Faculty Research Themes


Key Contact

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

Department / Centre

Anatomy and Physiology

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