How chronic stress experienced during early development epigenetically programs adult disease risk

View webinar Q&A follow-up from James Coffman here

Chronic psychosocial stress contributes significantly to the public health problems endemic to the modern world, many of which have also been linked to chronic inflammation. Epidemiological studies have shown that chronic stress experienced very early in life—even prenatally—increases the risk of developing inflammatory disease in adulthood, including mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Chronically elevated glucocorticoid (corticosteroid) signaling is one mechanism hypothesized to account for that correlation. Consistent with this, chronic exposure to elevated corticosteroids during early development has been found to have long term effects on adult behavior and immunoregulation.

What will you learn?

  • Adult disease risk is linked to psychosocial stress experienced early in life
  • Zebrafish embryos chronically exposed to low-dose cortisol during early development develop into adults that misexpress immunoregulatory genes and display aberrant circadian rhythms

Who should attend?

  • Developmental biologists
  • Immunologists
  • Health professionals
  • General public
  • Neurologists/Neuroscientists
  • Geneticists




James Coffman
Associate professor
MDI Biological Laboratory

Dr. Coffman is a developmental biologist whose research is focused on the problem of developmental plasticity, specifically on how exposure to environmental stressors during early development can program adult anatomy and physiology. The work addresses two questions. The first concerns how networks of transcriptional regulatory genes and their protein products work to direct development, a problem Dr. Coffman has been working on for over 25 years, beginning as a postdoctoral associate of the late Eric Davidson at Caltech. The second concerns how environmental stressors perturb the activities of transcription factors with key developmental roles, thus influencing the course of development.

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