Professor John Furness

John Furness for web

University of Melbourne


John Furness is Professor of Anatomy and Neuroscience at the University of Melbourne. A major focus of his current work is on the investigation of therapeutic approaches to solving autonomic dysregulation that is consequent on spinal cord injury.  This is currently focused on management of bowel dysfunction, primarily the constipation that occurs in SCI. The work involves animal proof of principle studies and testing in human. His laboratory has worked for many years on the enteric nervous system and gastrointestinal physiology.  Current work in this area includes enteric neuropathy resulting from ischemia and reperfusion.  This is particularly relevant to complications that occur after bowel transplantation.  His lab is also investigating deleterious effects of high fat diets on the intestine and the roles of micronutrients in promoting gut health.

He has a major research program on the roles of ghrelin and ghrelin receptors in autonomic and metabolic control.  The roles of ghrelin receptors in the spinal cord were discovered in his laboratory.

His laboratory also works on neurotransmission to blood vessels and the changes that occur after damage to vascular innervation that occurs in diabetes, obesity, after injury and after spinal cord damage.

He is the leader of the Histopathology and Organ Pathology section of the Australian Phenomics Network (, which utilises virtual slide technology and the handling and analysis of large image files and their integration into a national phenomics database.

He is known for his work in unravelling the intrinsic circuits in the digestive tract (the enteric nervous system: recently reviewed in Nature Reviews, Gastroenterology), for the chemical coding hypothesis, and for the discovery and identification of sensory neurons intrinsic to the digestive tract.