The team will investigate the mechanism of a drug called Alosetron, which is used to treat pain in IBS. They will use their own expertise in nerve physiology and genetics and collaborate with clinicians at the University of Cambridge to further develop a new technique they have established. The aim of the study is to pinpoint the specific action of the nerves near the rectum, and differentiate those which are responsible for pain and defecation (passing stools or poo).

The research team

The research is being led by Dr Ewan St. John Smith, a Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology at the University of Cambridge. The team will collaborate with the Cambridge Biorepository for Translational Medicine which will give them access to human tissue for the study.

Why study constipation in IBS?

IBS is a common condition that affects up to 20% of the population. Similar to Inflammatory Bowel Disease but without the clinical evidence of inflammation and damage to the gut, IBS is a painful and distressing condition that can seriously affect people’s quality of life.

A drug called Alosetron is an effective pain relief medication for individuals with IBS but it can cause a side effect of severe constipation. The team suspect they know why this happens, and if they can identify the nerve mechanisms involved it will pave the way for new treatments that can target pain sensing nerves without the side effect.