Novel drugs and receptors for targeting neural control of digestive system functtion


Project Details

We have made a number of discoveries of new compounds that can modify digestive function, and are conducting animal proof of principal experiments that we hope will lead to clinical trials.

You will work with a team of researchers to investigate the effectiveness and mechanisms of action of novel pharmacological tools.

This project will provide you with the opportunity to conduct in vivo experiments and to learn much about whole animal physiology. One of the major problems of digestive function is failure of propulsive activity.  This arises from a variety of neuro‚Äźmuscular dysfunctions.  The most common result is constipation that afflicts more than 20% of the population, many older Australians and most of those with spinal cord injury.  We have discovered a new class of drugs that can potentially be used to treat these conditions and this project will further investigate the mechanisms of action and therapeutic potential of novel compounds.


Project supervisor:

  • Dr Rachel McQuade

Project members:

  • Dr Ruslan Pustovit, Professor John Furness, Dr Shanti Diwakarla


  • Dr Ahkter Hossain
  • Professor Ross Barthgate

Research Publications

Callaghan, B, Furness, JB, Pustovit, RV:  Neural pathways for colorectal control, relevance to spinal cord injury and treatment. Spinal Cord 56, 199-205 (2018), doi:10.1038/s41393-017-0026-2

Pustovit, RV,Callaghan, B, Ringuet, MT, Kerr, NF, Hunne, B, Smyth, IM, Pietra, C, Furness, JB:  Evidence that central pathways that mediate defecation utilise ghrelin receptors but do not require endogenous ghrelin.  Physiol Reports, 5, e13385 (2017)

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 Neuroscience

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