Melbourne researchers create hope for sufferers of inflammatory bowel disease

Melbourne researchers are creating hope for sufferers of inflammatory bowel diseases, one of the damaging side effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. In a $6 million project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), researchers aim to develop a bionic device which would stimulate nerves in the gut, helping those suffering from the common yet debilitating condition.

Although DARPA rarely funds organisations outside the US, University of Melbourne researchers were chosen for their unique partnership of experts, including neurophysicists, a biomedical engineer, a computer scientist and surgeon, in addition to the University’s unique approach to treating inflammatory bowel disease.

Principal Investigator Professor John Furness from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health will be joined by colleague Professor Robin McAllen, Director of the Bionics Institute Rob Shepherd, biomedical engineer at the University of Melbourne Professor David Grayden and Director of the Victorian Liver Transplantation Unit at Austin Health Professor Bob Jones.

Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, can be a result of immune deficiencies associated with the increased levels of stress faced by war veterans and other people with post-traumatic stress.

In this project, researchers will create detailed functional and anatomical maps of pathways between the chest and abdomen and establish the optimal conditions to reduce the severity of inflammatory bowel disease.

In the future, it is hoped this research could be used to treat other types of inflammation, such as arthritis or respiratory diseases.

Read Department of Defense funds Australian research into inflammatory bowel disease from the Melbourne Newsroom andElectro’ jump start: US military backs local bionic implant project from the Herald Sun to find out more.