Welcome to the Coffin Lab! We study hair cells – not the hair cells on your head, but the hair cells in your inner ears. Hearing is one of our basic senses – it allows us to communicate and to perceive the world around us. At the heart of hearing is the sensory hair cell: a polarized epithelial-type cell that converts acoustic signals in the environment to electrochemical signals in the nervous system. These cells are exquisitely sensitive to sound and unfortunately to damage from a variety of sources including noise and some classes of medications. This damage causes hearing loss, cutting us off from the outside world. Research in the Coffin Lab seeks to understand the cellular events underlying hearing loss so that we may prevent these events and preserve hearing. We use a variety of fishes as model systems for this research.
Our research examines two major questions:
1) What cellular and molecular events trigger hair cell death following a toxic insult?
2) How do endogenous hormones influence hair cell death and proliferation?
In addition, we are interested in more fisheries-related questions, specifically the way the hatchery rearing environment affects development and function of the lateral line in juvenile salmonids.
Congratulations to high school intern Meghal Sheth on her outstanding third-place finish in the Washington State Science and Engineering Fair! Good luck in Phoenix at the International SEF Competition.