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Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2005 Mar;21(2):176-82.

Enteric nervous system.

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Department of Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield, UK.



The purpose of this review is to provide a synopsis of how the field of enteric neurobiology has advanced during the past 2 years.


With more than 500 studies from which to choose, the authors have focused on several themes that illustrate recent progress. There has been an explosion of interest in the development of the enteric nervous system driven by the need to understand development abnormalities, particularly in Hirschsprung disease, and fueled by technical advances for investigating how neural crest-derived cells migrate, proliferate, and differentiate into enteric neurons and glia. The use of neural stem cells as a therapeutic strategy aimed at repopulating regions of bowel, where enteric neurones are reduced or absent, is on the horizon. Enteric reflexes involve interactions between sensory neurons, interneurons, and motor neurons. Recent findings suggest this distinction may be blurred, with neurons having multifunctional properties, perhaps because enteric neurons, unlike their central nervous system counterparts, are directly exposed to mechanical forces that they regulate. Another topic the authors have highlighted is pharmacology, with new tools for investigating ion channels, receptors, and transporters, leading to an expanding list of molecular mechanisms that regulate neuronal excitability. Long-term alterations in the expression of these molecules during disease or injury may underlie many gastrointestinal disorders that currently have unknown etiology. The authors finish with a look to the future and what may be the subject of this review next time.


Basic science information gathered during the past 2 years provides insight into pathophysiologic processes and will pave the wave for improved understanding of both organic and 'functional' gastrointestinal disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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