NeuRA Magazine #21

YOUNG RESEARCHER AT WORK

Dr Anna Hudson, Senior Postdoctoral Fellow at NeuRA, has been awarded the Lung Foundation Australia/Boehringer Ingelheim Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Research Fellowship. One in seven Australians over forty is affected by Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a progressive disease which makes it hard to breathe and causes shortness of breath, progressing in its severity over time. People living with this disease usually experience coughing which produces large amounts of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms.

 

Commenting on her fellowship award Anna said, “my research work over the next two years will focus on looking at the way respiratory muscles are controlled in people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease”.

 

“For most of us we rarely think about breathing – it is an automatic process, but for people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, they are often short of breath.”

 

“I am going to use my knowledge in the techniques to measure muscle and brain activity to detect impairments in the neural control of breathing in these people”, said Dr Hudson.

 

This is a disease which affects the quality of life and the everyday living of people affected by it. By looking at how the neural control of their breathing muscles is affected, Dr Hudson hopes to identify new targets, therapies and techniques to support and improve the lives of people living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

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FEEL THE BUZZ IN THE AIR? US TOO.

Abdominal muscle stimulation to improve bowel function in spinal cord injury

Bowel complications, resulting from impaired bowel function, are common for people living with a spinal cord injury (SCI). As a result, people with a SCI have high rates of bowel related illness, even compared with those with other neurological disorders. This includes high rates of abdominal pain, constipation, faecal incontinence and bloating. These problems lower the quality of life of people with a SCI and place a financial burden on the health system. A treatment that improves bowel function for people with a SCI should reduce illness, improve quality of life and lead to a large cost saving for health care providers. Bowel problems have traditionally been managed with manual and pharmacological interventions, such as digital rectal stimulation, enemas, and suppositories. These solutions are usually only partially effective, highlighting the need for improved interventions. The abdominal muscles are one of the major muscle groups used during defecation. Training the abdominal muscles should improve bowel function by increasing abdominal pressure. During our previous Abdominal FES research with people with a SCI, we observed that Abdominal FES appeared to lead to more consistent and effective bowel motion. However, this evidence remains anecdotal. As such, we are going to undertake a large randomised controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness of Abdominal FES to improve the bowel function of people with a SCI. This study will make use of a novel measurement system (SmartPill, Medtronic) that can be swallowed to measure whole gut and colonic transit time. We will also assess whether Abdominal FES can change constipation-related quality of life and the use of laxatives and manual procedures, as well as the frequency of defecation and the time taken. A positive outcome from this study is likely to lead to the rapid clinical translation of this technology for people living with a SCI.
PROJECT