Quick Project Snapshot

Novel drugs and receptors for targeting neural control of digestive function

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

Program Leaders: Dr Ruslan Pustovit, Dr Shanti Diwakarla, Dr Brid Callaghan, Prof John Furness.

Contacts: Prof John Furness: john.furness@florey.edu.au & Dr Brid Callaghan: b.callaghan@unimelb.edu.au

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‐muscular 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 we have a clinical drug trial in progress.  We are interested in further drug development.  You will work with a team of researchers to investigate the effectiveness and mechanisms of action of novel pharmacological tools.


Ferens DM, Habgood, MD, Saunders, NR, Tan, YH, Brown, DJ, Brock, JA, Furness, JB: Stimulation of defecation in spinal cord injured rats by a centrally acting ghrelin receptor agonist. Spinal Cord, 49, 1036‐1041(2011).

Pustovit RV, Furness JB & Rivera LR. A ghrelin receptor agonist is an effective colokinetic in rats with diet-induced constipation. Neurogastroenterol Motil 27, 610-617. (2015).

Systems Neurophysiology

In Systems Neurophysiology we seek to learn how the nervous system controls various bodily functions and how that control is altered in disease. Our disease focus includes not only neurological disorders such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, but also how the nervous system impacts on non-neurological diseases such as heart failure and inflammatory diseases.  A clear understanding of basic mechanisms is crucial in developing better therapies and reducing the impacts of illness. 

All Labs that operate in this Division

Autonomic Neuroscience LaboratoryDigestive Physiology and Nutrition LaboratoryNeurocardiovascular LaboratoryNeurovascular Biology LaboratoryRespiratory Neurophysiology LaboratoryViscerosensory Laboratory