Gut health: an intersection of food, environment, animal production and global health


Project Details

Gut health can be defined as a condition in which mucosal function is normal and assimilation of nutrients is not compromised.

In this study we will use ischemia/ reperfusion (I/R) injury or heat stress as acute stressors to enteric neurons or a high fat diet regime, which has the hallmarks of accelerated ageing.  More generally, chronic enteric neuronal stress will be used to screen for drugs that might be used as neuroprotectors when oxidative stress is a factor, for example in intestinal transplant surgery.

When the gut is stressed, there are major effects on the mucosa.  This manifests as a loss of structural integrity, increased mucosal permeability, malabsorption of nutrients, and mucosal inflammation.  In addition to the mucosa, enteric neurons are susceptible to damage when there is stress, particularly oxidative stress, to the intestine.  We have developed a number of models for studying enteric neuropathies associated with inflammation, ischemia/ reperfusion injury, high fat diets (Rivera et al. 2014) and environmental heat (Maseko et al 2014).


Project supervisor:

  • Professor John Furness

Project members:

  • Dr Rachel McQuade, Dr Ruslan Pustovit


  • Dr Jeremy Cotttell, Agricultural Science

Research Publications

Rivera LR, Leung C, Pustovit RV, Hunne B, Andrikopoulos S, Herath C, Testro A, Angus PW & Furness JB. Damage to enteric neurons occurs in mice that develop fatty liver disease but not diabetes in response to a high-fat diet. Neurogastroenterol Motil 26, 1188-1199 (2014).

Maseko T, Dunshea FR, Howell K, Cho H-J, Rivera LR, Furness JB & Ng K. Selenium-enriched Agaricus bisporus mushroom protects against increases in gut permeability ex vivo and up-regulates glutathione peroxidase 1 and 2 in hyperthermal-induced oxidative stress in rats. Nutrients 6, 2478-2492 (2014).

Liu, F, Cottrell, JJ, Furness, JB, Rivera, LR, Kelly, FW, Wijesiriwardana, U, Pustovit, RV, Fothergill, LJ, Bravo, DM, Celi, P, Leury, LJ, Gabler, NK, Dunshea, FR:  Selenium and Vitamin E together improve intestinal epithelial barrier function and alleviate oxidative stress in heat stressed pigs. Exp. Physiol. 101, 801-810 (2016)

Research Group

Furness laboratory: Digestive physiology and nutrition

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

Key Contact

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

Department / Centre

Anatomy and Neuroscience

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