Our Research

Our Vision

To understand the pathophysiology of functional gastrointestinal disorders, with a focus on the microbiota and diet, and to develop novel treatments and biomarkers.

To elucidate mechanisms underlying gut microbiota-to-brain signaling across the lifespan and in brain disorders, including anxiety and depression.

Our research into functional intestinal disorders includes:

1. Role of Microbiota & Diet in Intestinal Dysfunction in Irritable Bowel Syndrome

We use a mouse model in which germ-free mice are colonized with microbiota from patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) to study the role of bacteria in the generation of intestinal dysfunction including motility, visceral sensitivity, permeability and immune responses.  In keeping with our previous work on post-infectious IBS, we continue to investigate the role of pathogenic bacteria in the triggering of functional gastrointestinal disorders.

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2. Role of Microbiota and Dietary Factors in Visceral Sensitivity and Abdominal Pain

We investigate the role of microbes and dietary components in the genesis of abdominal pain in IBS and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) using both clinical and basic approaches. At the basic level, we investigate the role of dietary substrate and microbial metabolites in the sensitization of visceral afferent nerves and generate proof of resulting concepts in clinical studies in IBS or IBD patients, with a particular interest in fecal and urinary biomarkers.

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3. Microbiota Influences on Brain Function

The lab has played a pioneering role in the discovery of the bi-directional microbiota-gut-brain axis. Ongoing work investigates how intestinal microbes influence brain function in terms of brain development and the contribution of the microbiota to brain disorders that include general anxiety disorder, major depressive illness and mood disorders that occur as comorbidities in functional and inflammatory intestinal conditions.  We also investigate cognitive decline associated with ageing. These ongoing studies utilize clinical measurements and murine models including microbiota-humanized mice. Our studies include clinical trials of probiotic bacteria in mood disorders.

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4. Clinical Research

Our research is inherently translational and our preclinical work is translated into the clinic where appropriate. Our clinical research team is currently conducting studies on

  1.  The role of bacterial histamine in IBS 
  2. The role of bioactive lipids in chronic abdominal pain in patients with IBD