Our research looks at how the nervous and the immune systems communicate— and how this knowledge is relevant to gastrointestinal diseases.
The Gastrointestinal Neuro-Immune Interactions Group investigates diseases of the lower gastrointestinal tract, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Currently, it isn’t clear how the pronounced changes to microbiota, immune function and nervous signalling relate to the symptoms seen in these common diseases.
We want to understand how the nervous and immune systems communicate and the role that microbiota has in these gut interactions. This will allow us to develop new tools for imaging these important gut interactions.
Using tissue sampled from both human subjects and animal models of IBD and IBS at different disease stages, we have developed models of remitting and relapsing colonic inflammation. Our research is being used to identify targets for treatment, but also demonstrates how novel imaging techniques can be applied to visualise inflammation in real-time. This helps us to better understand how immune and nervous system responses differ between initial and subsequent inflammatory events.
We also collaborate with clinical gastroenterologists, immunologists and neuroscientists to investigate (using animal models of IBS and IBD) the effects that immune mediators have on sensations from the gut, and also the reciprocal effects that neurotransmitters have on the immune system.
We also have two clinical trials underway—with collaborators looking at faecal microbiota transfer as a treatment for ulcerative colitis, and whether psychological treatments can prolong remission in IBD.
Lead researcher: Dr Patrick Hughes
We offer exciting opportunities for researchers at the honours, masters and PhD levels. Our research degrees are open to students from a broad range of backgrounds, and range from basic sciences to clinical research. If you are interested in human health, consider furthering your research career with us.