Significant progress has been made in several areas of gastroenterology over the last two decades. The understanding of physiology of gastrointestinal tract covering motility, sensitivity, absorption, and molecular biology of gastrointestinal cancers, particularly colorectal cancer, has immensely improved. Recent years were dominated by increased public attention focused on functional bowel disorders. Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional bowel disorder characterized by abdominal pain and discomfort without clearly demonstrable organic cause leading to altered bowel habits. Since the prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome is high, it represents a significant societal and economic burden. Better understanding of the function of the enteric nervous system supported by the evidence that pain and discomfort experienced by the patients is due to hypersensitivity of vagal and spinal sensory neurons allowed for selective targeting receptors expressed by the afferent neurons for therapeutic intervention. Emerging therapies for irritable bowel syndrome, such as tegaserod, alosetron and cilansetron, affect the serotonergic system. This publication is of interest to experts from a variety of disciplines including medicine, physiology and pathophysiology, medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, and molecular genetics as well as to the general public.