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A BIG WELCOME to all of you interested in Intestinal Permeability!! Our group was originally created in early 2008 with the help of a Strategic Research Initiative Award by the University of Otago, Dunedin School of Medicine. We recently received some more funding in the form of a Strategic Research Investment. Our aim is to make sense of the fact that quite a number of chronic conditions have underlying changes in their intestinal permeability. What is chicken and what is egg?

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Dr Michael SCHULTZ
Dr Grant BUTT
Anna Lindstroem
Paul Woods
Chuan Chuan LAI

Dr Michael Schultz - Consultant Gastroenterologist and Senior Lecturer in Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin School of Medicine, Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences

Associate Professor Grant Butt - Physiology, University of Otago, Department of Physiology

Anna Lindstroem - PhD candidate, University of Otago, Department of Physiology

Paul Woods - MMedSci candidate and Surgical Registrar, University of Otago, Department of Physiology and Department of General Surgery, Dunedin Public Hospital, Otago District Health Board. Recipient of the NZ Society of Gastroenterology Fellowship.

Glen Donaldson - Research Technician

Chuan Lai - MMedSci candidate and Surgical Registrar, University of Otago, Department of Physiology and Department of General Surgery, Dunedin Public Hospital, Otago District Health Board. Recipient of the Tony Hocken Scholarship of the Medicine Section.


Around 10-13 – 10-14 bacteria are present in the human intestinal tract. Generally these bacteria are symbiotic and they are essential to our well being and health (see latest issue of Nature). Paradoxically, these bacteria can also pose a major threat to our health. In a healthy organism, in order to allow the intestinal immune system to recognise and distinguish between the ‘good’, the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’, specialised mechanisms within the mucosa sample antigens in a controlled fashion. If this barrier is compromised, bacteria can cross uninhibited resulting in the development of disease. A classic example is Crohn’s Disease. Here the structural barrier or “wall” formed by the intestinal lining is “leaky’ allowing uncontrolled entry of bacteria into the body. This results in an aggressive immune response towards the normally beneficial microbiota, inflammation of the intestine and further damage to the intestinal barrier. Increasingly it is being argued that a compromised intestinal barrier, particularly an increase in the permeability of the intestine, is a necessary prerequisite, not only for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), but also Coeliac disease, Diabetes Mellitus Type I (TIDM) and Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). It has been shown for instance that in patients in whom TIDM is anticipated (positive antibodies but no clinical signs) an increased permeability can be observed without obvious intestinal inflammation.


A workshop in February 2008, organised by the applicants and funded by a Strategic Research Initiative Award, was the first step in establishing a collaborative effort centred here in Otago to investigate the role a defect in intestinal permeability has as an underlying pathomechanism in chronic disorders. Thirty five clinicians and scientists from New Zealand and overseas attended the workshop. Specialists in the fields of genetics, microbiology, immunology, physiology, pharmacology, botany, rheumatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, surgery, nutrition, nutrigenomics and from the pharmaceutical industry were present, spanning the field from bench to bedside. The workshop was very successful in establishing the research strategy and clearly demonstrated that within this collaborative network the necessary commitment, expertise and tools, from cell cultures to animal models and well characterised patient cohorts, were available. However, it was also recognised that before an application to a major funding body can be envisioned, several well-defined projects have to be conducted to generate preliminary data. A successful application to the Research Development Investment 2008, will allow the generation of this data and the development of a major research application.


The idea

Getting started