Development of autonomic and nociceptive nerve circuits

Research Opportunity
PhD students, Honours students, Master of Biomedical Science
Number of Honour Places Available
Number of Master Places Available
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Prof Janet Keast
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Peregrine Osborne

Summary Voiding and reproduction are important human functions that require complex reflexes to be coordinated at behaviourally appropriate times. Our goal is to help develop neuromodulation and other therapies to treat clinical conditions affecting these complex functions. This includes studies to provide high resolution maps of these neural circuits in rodents and human specimens, define how these peripheral, spinal and brain circuits develop; and how they might be manipulated to provide clinical treatments in diverse medical specialties including urology, gastroenterology, sexual medicine, neurology and pain medicine. We are supported by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) SPARC program and have also contributed to the NIH-funded GenitoUrinary Development Molecular Anatomy Project database (GUDMAP).

Project Details

A range of studies are available in this area and are especially suited to students with a strong background in developmental biology or neural structures. Urogenital function is regulated by autonomic neurons in the pelvic ganglia (known as the inferior hypogastric plexus in people) and sensory neurons in lumbosacral dorsal root ganglia. In comparison to other parts of the autonomic nervous system, the pelvic ganglia are very unusual. For example, they are very different in males and females, and they continue to be very sensitive to actions of steroids, even in adults. Most unusually, they are mixed sympathetic-parasympathetic ganglia, leading to questions of how these ganglia develop, and how their connections with two different regions of the spinal cord (lumbar and sacral) are determined correctly when they first form. Very little is known about how this part of the autonomic nervous system develops and what initiates its sexual dimorphism. These are critical to understanding developmental abnormalities and may also point to mechanisms that can be activated in adults to repair axons after injury. Other projects are available to investigate the unique features of developing sacral nociceptive neurons that are later involved in sexually dimorphic pelvic pain conditions. 

Research Opportunities

PhD students, Honours students, Master of Biomedical Science
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.

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