Dr Bridget Southwell
Dr Bridget Southwell began her career studying embryonic development of the nervous system in the intestine at Melbourne University's Zoology Department with Professor Ian Gibbins and Professor Graham Campbell. She worked for three years as a research assistant to Professor Graham Brown at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and then completed her PhD in Biochemistry on proteins produced by the liver and the choroid plexus (this produces the cerebrospinal fluid) with Professor Gerhard Shreiber.
She completed postdoctoral studies with Professor Joel Bornstein and Professor John Furness at Melbourne University's Physiology and Anatomy Departments, combining biochemical knowledge of molecular interactions and microscopy to study tachykinin receptors in the bowel. She received a postdoctoral Fellowship from the Gastroenterology Society of Australia to study cholinergic nerves and receptors. In 2000, she moved to the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute to work with gastroenterologists and surgeons to address gastrointestinal problems in children that may be related to the nervous system.
She has become a specialist in colonic dysmotility and was awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Research Fellowship in 2007 to undertake studies on new diagnoses and treatments for children with chronic treatment-resistant constipation. She was elected as a Fellow of the American Gastroenterology Association in 2005 and received the award for Paediatric Research from the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders for her studies on colonic dysmotility in children.
- National Health and Medical Research Centre (NHMRC) Senior Research Fellow
- Associate Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne
- 2012 and 2013: Abstract of Distinction, American Gastroenterology Association Digestive Disease Week Annual Conference, (top 10 per cent of 15,000 presentations)
- 2012: Alvarez Award (highest award for presentation at annual meeting), International Electrogastrography Society Annual Meeting
- 2009 and 2008: Travel Award and Top 10 per cent of Abstracts, Joint International Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society
- 2007- 2011, 2012- 2016: NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship, National Health and Medical Research Council
- 2005: Paediatric Basic Research Award, International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
- 2005: American Gastroenterology Association Fellow, American Gastroenterology Association
- 2005: Researcher on the Move Award, Gastroenterology Society of Australia
- 2002: Rising Star Award, Gastroenterology Society of Australia 2002
- 1998-2000: Research Fellowship, Gastroenterology Society of Australia
- 1997: International Travel Award, American Gastroenterology Association Digestive Disease Week Annual Conference
Dr Southwell has a Phd with a specialty in fluorescence microscopy. In addition to laboratory studies, she leads clinical studies on bowel dysmotility.
She is studying chronic constipation in children and developing methods for diagnosis and treatment. While constipation is common in 20 per cent of children it continues as a chronic condition in two to three per cent of children. Chronic constipation is associated with soiling and greatly affects the ability of children to attend school and to socialise. The Royal Children's Hospital performs a complex test called the nuclear transit study (NTS) to track where the bowel has a defect using a radioactive drink and images taken over two days. Dr Southwell has worked with Professor John Hutson and the Radiology Department to interpret the tests and create classification groups for patients. Once the site of the defect is determined, the best treatment is chosen.
Dr Southwell's initial research was on the development of the nervous system of the intestine. This has extended to studying the nerves in the intestine of patients with severe dysmotility of the bowel. Dr Southwell has identified reductions in nerve fibres in the colon of patients with slow-transit constipation.
An exciting development in the last 10 years has been the study of a physiotherapy method to treat constipation. This method, using painless stimulation through sticky electrodes on the skin, is given by patients at home for an hour a day. This stimulation increases colonic contractions and increases the frequency of defecation. The group is running clinical trials testing the method in patients with chronic constipation.
Dr Southwell also works closely with Professor Hutson on studies of testis and testicular descent using her expertise in fluorescence and confocal microscopy and biochemical techniques.
- Transcutaneous electrical stimulation to treat chronic constipation in children with anorectal retention.
- Transcutaneous electrical stimulation to treat incontinence in children with spina bifida.
- Distribution of nerves in normal and pathological human bowel.
- Postnatal development of normal and undescended testis.
- Molecular cues involved in descent of the testis.
Ansari H, Ansari Z, Lim T, Hutson JM, Southwell BR. Factors relating to hospitalisation and economic burden of paediatric constipation in the state of Victoria, Australia, 2002-2009. J Paediatr Child Health 2014.
Southwell BR, Yik YI, Tan A, Jordan-Ely J, Hutson JM. Transcutaneous Electrical Stimulation over the Belly in Slow-Transit Constipation. In: Constipation in Children: Diagnosis and Treatment, Núñez R, Fabbro MA (eds). Nova Publisher: Hauppauge NY, USA, 2013; 299-320,( https://www.novapublishers.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=44336). .
Southwell BR. Medical devices to deliver transcutaneous electrical stimulation using interferential current to treat constipation. Expert review of medical devices 2013;10(6): 701-704.
Hutson JM, Southwell BR, Li R, Lie G, Ismail K, Harisis G, Chen N. The regulation of testicular descent and the effects of cryptorchidism. Endocr Rev 2013;34(5): 725-752.
Hutson JM, Southwell BR (eds). Constipation: Current & Emerging Treatments. Future Medicine Ltd, 2013; 209.
Yik YI, Ismail KA, Hutson JM, Southwell BR. Home transcutaneous electrical stimulation to treat children with slow-transit constipation. Journal of pediatric surgery 2012;47(6): 1285-1290.
Hutson JM, Li R, Southwell BR, Petersen BL, Thorup J, Cortes D. Germ cell development in the postnatal testis: the key to prevent malignancy in cryptorchidism? Front Endocrinol (Lausanne) 2012;3: 176.
Clarke MC, Catto-Smith AG, King SK, Dinning PG, Cook IJ, Chase JW, Gibb SM, Robertson VJ, Di S, Hutson JM, Southwell BR. Transabdominal electrical stimulation increases colonic propagating pressure waves in paediatric slow transit constipation. Journal of pediatric surgery 2012;47(12): 2279-2284.
Yik YI, Cook DJ, Veysey DM, Rutkowski SJ, Tudball CF, King BS, Cain TM, Southwell BR, Hutson JM. Targeting the causes of intractable chronic constipation in children: The nuclear transit study (NTS). In: Radioisotopes- Applications in bio-medical science. Intech Open Access, 2011; 305-320.
van Wunnik BP, Baeten CG, Southwell BR. Neuromodulation for constipation: Sacral and transcutaneous stimulation. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol 2011;25(1): 181-191.
- National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)- Senior Research Fellowship
- NHMRC Project Grant- Transcutaneous Stimulation to treat chronic constipation in children with anorectal retention.
- NHMRC Project Grant- Postnatal Germ Cell Development in Undescended Testis.
- Medical Research Commercialisation Fund: Development of a Device to Treat Chronic Constipation.
- Murdoch Childrens Research Institute Theme Investment- Transcutaneous electrical stimulation as an alternative therapy for faecal incontinence in children with spina bifida