Visceral Pain Research Group

Visceral Pain Research Group
Stuart Brierly

The Visceral Pain Research Group's studies comprise bench and translational science to determine the causes of, and cures for, chronic abdominal and pelvic (visceral) pain relevant to:

  • Gastrointestinal disorders involving the ‘Gut-Brain axis’ such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
  • Urinary disorders such as interstitial cystitis (IC) & bladder pain syndrome (BPS).
  • Endometriosis.

These disorders are a colossal problem, affecting more than 20% of the global population. Despite their high prevalence, effective therapies are lacking as traditional ‘pain killers’ such as opioids are ineffective and have significant side-effects resulting in the current ‘opioid epidemic’.

The group's research has provided a paradigm shift in treatment strategy by targeting the underlying cause of these conditions.

Using state of the art molecular, anatomical and functional approaches allows the team to study mechanisms from the single cell through to clinical samples. This allows investigation of how visceral pain pathways become sensitised in disease and why they fail to reset back to normal, thereby causing chronic pain.

These multi-faceted research programs have translated to high-impact publications in journal such as Nature, Cell, Nature Communications, PNAS, Gastroenterology, Gut, Pain and The Journal of Neuroscience.

The Visceral Pain Research Group is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC), The Australian Research Council (ARC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and research collaborations with numerous international industry partners.

As an indication of the clinical translation of this group, in collaboration with Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, the group identified the mechanism of pain relief of a new drug, linaclotide, in treating patients with IBS with constipation (IBS-C). Linaclotide, a guanylate cyclase-C (GC-C) agonist is effective in relieving abdominal pain associated with IBS-C and is available and registered for use by IBS-C patients in the USA, Europe and Asia.