MC

Mississippi College

John Piletz, PhD


2015 marks my third year at "MC- A Christian University".  Please peruse my research description, course syllabi & semester calendar listed below.

About Me

As an ex-med school professor, I'm so happy to be teaching in MC's Biology Department, especially in the innovative Medical Sciences Master's degree program. For years my research had focused on the brain and psychobiology.  Now, I've come up with a new twist about a major factor affecting brain health.  To my collegues in psychobiology, I say this is a bottoms-up approach (pun intended).  What I'm talking about is the symbiotic garden existing within each of us - the gut microbiome - and how it signals our brain!   The gut microbiome is composed of trillions of bacteria and other microbes representing thousands of different species - and what I am trying to discover is how these intestinal indwellers talk to our neurons.  Frankly, the microbes of our colon haven't attracted much attention in the neuroscience community: there's been the yuk factor and for years what studies had been done dealt with killing them (hence, many antibiotic studies). Then, thanks largely to the advent of high-throughput DNA sequencing, these old ideas began changing.  We now appreciate that there are many good bacteria and they exert a myriad of healthy benefits - and there is solid science behind probiotics, prebiotics, and even fecal transplants. Most surprising to me, the benefits extend all the way up to our brains and even decrease our anxiety levels (at least that's what the latest studies seem to be showing)! Textbooks, have long stated that the main mechanism of probiotics is by competing-out nasty toxic bacteria within our digetstive system. But, a closer look at the normal fauna led to discovering the existence of profound and unexpected host-microbiome interactions and, in particular, to a tonic physiological system named the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis (MGB axis).  Besides having essential immuno and hormonal components, the moment-by moment signalling branch of the MGB axis is the human enteric nervous system (ENS).  To be sure, the ENS has its traditional role in intestinal movement and gastric secretions.  But, the ENS is richly connected upstream to the brain through ganglion, parasympathetic, and sympathetic systems.  There are "good" bacteria called the commensals sending signals upstream to our brain, and there are "bad" bacteria called endotoxic bacteria that promote a dysfunctional cytokine response.  Different enteric bacteria emit chemical signals to each other as well as to the endothelial cells of the gut, which go onward to the ENS, and upward to the brain.  Important scientific evidence now indicates that these signals interact with homeostatic mechanisms involved in satiety and body weight control. But, the exact nature of these signals remains unclear and much in need of decoding.  Can we learn enough about the MGB axis to harness its health benefits?  Could this help with America's battle with obesity? Such concepts are very new - yet they have gastronomic implications!  There are many possible studies to be designed and explored by students in my laboratory.  Challenging minds and shaping lives, of which I am a prime example!

Class Schedule

Fall 2015

  • BIO6430 X - Graduate Biology Seminar
    Fridays, 1:00 - 3:00 pm, Med Sci 210
  • BIO 6430-Y - Graduate Biology Seminar
    Thursdays, 6;00 - 9:00 pm, Med Sci 210
  • BIO 6330-Z - Graduate Biology Seminar Observation
    Fridays, 1:00 - 3:00 pm, Med Sci 210
  • BIO 6330 Y - Graduate Biology Seminar Observation
    Thursdays, 6:00 - 9:00 pm, Med Sci 210
  • Bio 451 & - Enteric Cell-Cell Signal Lab Rsch
    TBD, 3.5 hours per week per 1 credit hr, Medsci 219
  • BIO 6460/1 - Enteric-Bacterial Laboratory Research
    TBD, 3.5 hours per week per 1 credit hr, Medsci 219

Syllabi

Documents

BIO 6460/1 Documents

Other Documents

Links