Control of colon function in health and disease

The colon absorbs water and electrolytes, having a major role in fluid balance, absorbs short chain fatty acids as nutrients, and stores and expels fecal waste. Control of these functions is essential to a healthy life.

Failure of fluid absorption causes diarrhea and in extreme cases, as in cholera infection, can cause death. Derangements of storage and expulsion can also be life-threatening, as in Hirschsprung disease, or can cause the serious discomfort of constipation of diarrhea.

Control of colonic function involves the co-ordination of enteric nervous system and central nervous functions, and also involved the endocrine hormones of the colon and novel hormone and neurotransmitter receptors.

In this project you will investigate the control circuits, and interactions of nerves and gut endocrine cells, with particular emphasis on targets for therapy. This includes ghrelin receptors, dopamine receptors and receptors for gut hormones.


  • Develop a deeper understanding of colon disorders, identify new targets for treatment and bring new treatments into clinical use


We have made substantial progress in developing stem cell (neuron replacement) therapies and in identifying new targets for pharmacotherapy.

Research team


Dr Madeleine Di Natale


  • Professor Akhter Hossain – The Florey
  • Professor Ross Bathgate – The Florey
  • Dr Lincon Stamp – University of Melbourne (Anatomy and Physiology)
  • Dr Marlene Hao – University of Melbourne (Anatomy and Physiology)

Take part in this project

Student applications

Students who are applying to study at The Florey can register their interest in this project. Refer to our step-by-step guide to help you with your application.

How to apply

Accepting students

Contact us

If you’re interested in learning more about this project please contact our team.

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