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James Coffman

Associate Professor, MDI Biological Laboratory


  • Ph.D., Duke University, Zoology, 1990
  • B.A., Carleton College, Biology, 1981

Research in my lab seeks to understand how environmental conditions influence early development to affect adult anatomy, physiology and health. The work addresses two questions: (1) how interactions between regulatory genes and their protein products control development, and (2) how environmental stressors perturb those interactions to affect the course of development. Current research in my lab uses zebrafish as a model organism to elucidate developmental gene regulatory networks affected by chronic exposure to the stress hormone cortisol, in an effort to understand the mechanisms underlying the epidemiological correlation between chronic early life stress and adult disease risk.

In addition to my experimental research, I am interested in theoretical approaches to the problem of biological development and evolution, in particular from the perspective of complex systems theory, and have published numerous papers and one book on that subject. I also direct the Maine IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) in Comparative Functional Genomics, a statewide collaborative network of 13 academic and research institutions, led by the MDI Biological Laboratory and funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the NIH. The overarching goal of the Maine INBRE is to strengthen biomedical research and research infrastructure in the state of Maine, by providing biomedical research resources, funding, mentorship and training to undergraduates, post-graduates, and faculty.

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See also: Institute MDI Biological Laboratory - Non-profit biomedical research institution improving human health

James Coffman News

Anti-aging secrets of some animals, revealed

Discover - 08-Aug-2018

High cell damage tolerance, unfaltering telomeres, stem cells, to mention a few


Aging not inevitable for sea urchins

MDI Biological Laboratory - 24-May-2016

Sea urchins can quickly regrow damaged spines and feet. MDI Biological Laboratory studying sea u...