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Flashes of Light Flush Chronic Constipation

Credit: vchalup/Adobe

Credit: vchalup/Adobe

By Nick Spencer & Hongzhen Hu

A new treatment for chronic constipation involves sticking lights “where the sun don’t shine”.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The human gastrointestinal tract is more than 6 metres long. Muscle contraction along the gastrointestinal tract, not gravity, is responsible for moving contents along the large lengths of bowel. However, for the muscle cells to contract, the nerves within the gastrointestinal tract must also be activated.

Recently we showed for the first time that pulses of light can be used to stimulate the gastrointestinal tract in conscious mice. These pulses of light caused the gastrointestinal tract to expel content more frequently, leading to improved transit of content along the gut. This new approach, called wireless optogenetics, could be a major step forward in the treatment of a variety of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract associated with reduced transit of the bowel’s contents.

The study, published in June in Gastroenterology (https://goo.gl/c5DBrQ), demonstrated that specific types of nerves in the gastrointestinal tract can be activated with blue light to increase the amount of content expelled from the colon. This means that conventional drugs used to stimulate the gut and improve colonic transit could be a thing of the past. Instead, wireless optogenetics has the potential to improve transit along the gastro­intestinal tract in people.

Improper transit along the gastrointestinal...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.