Background: Although the precise pathophysiology of irritable bowel
syndrome (IBS) remains unknown, it is generally considered to be a disorder of the
brain-gut axis, representing the disruption of communication between the brain and
the digestive system. The present review describes advances in understanding the
pathophysiology and experimental approaches in studying IBS, as well as providing
an update of the therapies targeting brain-gut axis in the treatment of the disease.
Methods: Causal factors of IBS are reviewed. Following this, the preclinical
experimental models of IBS will be introduced. Besides, both current and future
therapeutic approaches of IBS will be discussed.
Results: When signal of the brain-gut axis becomes misinterpreted, it may lead to dysregulation of both
central and enteric nervous systems, altered intestinal motility, increased visceral sensitivity and
consequently contributing to the development of IBS. Interference of the brain-gut axis can be modulated
by various psychological and environmental factors. Although there is no existing animal experiment that
can represent this complex multifactorial disease, these in vivo models are clinically relevant readouts of
gastrointestinal functions being essential to the identification of effective treatments of IBS symptoms as
well as their molecular targets. Understanding the brain-gut axis is essential in developing the effective
therapy for IBS. Therapies include improvement of GI motor functions, relief of visceral hypersensitivity
and pain, attenuation of autonomic dysfunctions and suppression of mucosal immune activation.
Conclusion: Target-oriented therapies that provide symptomatic, psychological and physiological
benefits could surely help to improve the quality of life of IBS patients.