Neuroanatomy of human visceral systems

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

Several studies are available that are especially suited to students with a strong background in visceral anatomy and tissue structure. Although many macroscopic aspects of organ anatomy and innervation are known, there are major gaps in our understanding of the mesoscopic and microscopic structural features of organ innervation and the relevant neural tracts and ganglia that connect the organs with the spinal cord. Much of what is known about organ innervation has been learned from small clinical biopsies or cadaveric samples. These provide limited opportunity for detailed neural characterization or visualization. A particularly poorly understood structure is the inferior hypogastric plexus. This is a large, complex ganglionated plexus that incorporates the majority of autonomic neurons regulating pelvic organ function and provides the physical route by which most sensory axons reach these organs. This structure is especially vulnerable during pelvic surgery (e.g., prostatectomy), leading to many postsurgical problems relating to voiding, continence or sexual function. These projects will provide excellent opportunities to develop microdissection skills and to apply new tissue clearing, microscopy and neural labeling approaches to map innervation of human lower urinary tract and associated organs (e.g., prostate gland), or their related neural tracts and ganglia. For longer projects, there will also be opportunities to extend studies to several clinical conditions, in collaboration with clinical experts. 

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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