We are saddened and outraged by the killing of Kevin Peterson Jr., Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other unarmed Black women and men. The Coffin Lab and WSU Vancouver are committed to standing up to hate and injustice in our communities. We recognize that science has historically marginalized Black and Brown people and we want to help reimagine a future where science, and society, are truly diverse, inclusive, and equitable.
We study hair cells – not the 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. Our work helps understand how we lose our hearing and how we can prevent hearing loss or restore it.
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 primary study zebrafish, but also use other fishes as model systems for this research. We have recently begun using mice in our drug development efforts.
Our research examines several inter-related questions:
- What cellular and molecular events trigger hair cell death following a toxic insult?
- How can we develop pharmacological therapies to prevent hair cell death and preserve hearing?
- How do environmental toxins influence lateral line development and function?
- How do differences in protein structure and function affect hair cell regeneration?
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, and how underwater sound affects fish ears.