Neuroanatomy of human visceral systems
This project is linked to our research funded by the US NIH SPARC program.
It is especially suited to students with a strong background in visceral anatomy and tissue structure. You will address major knowledge gaps in our understanding of organ anatomy and innervation by studying mesoscopic and microscopic structural features of organ innervation and the relevant neural tracts and ganglia that connect the organs with the spinal cord.
A particularly poorly understood structure is the inferior hypogastric plexus. This large, complex ganglionated structure includes most of the autonomic neurons that regulate pelvic organ function and is traversed by most of sensory projections to these organs. It is easily damaged by pelvic surgery (e.g., prostatectomy), which contributes to post-surgical dysfunction in voiding, continence or sexual function.
Much of what is known about organ innervation has been learned from small clinical biopsies or cadaveric samples, which generally do not support high resolution visualisation and extensive characterisation of neural systems. To address this we have established collaborations with organ donor programs in Melbourne, France and the USA that are providing new opportunities for discovery in this field.
This project will involve developing microdissection skills and application of new tissue clearing, microscopy and neural labeling approaches to map innervation of human lower urinary tract and associated organs (e.g., prostate gland), or their related neural tracts and ganglia. For postgraduate students, there will also be opportunities to extend studies to several clinical conditions, in collaboration with clinical experts.
US National Institutes of Health 2016-2022
Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC) Common Fund Program: 'Foundational Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology of Organs'
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