Jean E. Schaffer

Office: Joslin Diabetes Center, room 602
Lab: Joslin Diabetes Center,
1 Joslin Place, rooms 540 and 545
Boston, MA 02115

Jean Schaffer completed her AB and MD degrees and clinical training in medicine and cardiology at Harvard University. She then moved to the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for postdoctoral training in cell biology with Harvey Lodish. From 1995-2019, she was a faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis, where she was appointed as the Virginia Minnich Distinguished Professor and directed the NIH-funded Diabetes Research Center. In July 2019, Dr. Schaffer was recruited to the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard. Dr. Schaffer is a recipient of the American Heart Association’s Established Investigator Award and Louis N. Katz Prize, and she was awarded the Heinrich Wieland Prize.

Areas of interest

The Schaffer lab uses genetic, biochemical, cell biological, and physiological approaches to study mechanisms through which metabolic stress leads to cell dysfunction and cell death. A major area of focus is the lipotoxicity that results from high circulating free fatty acids and triglycerides, metabolic abnormalities that are common in type 2 diabetes and that contribute to cardiac and hepatic complications. We have developed mouse models of diabetic cardiomyopathy, characterized alterations in cellular lipid metabolism using sensitive mass spectrometry based approaches, and carried out genetic screens to delineate the molecular underpinnings of the response to lipotoxic stress. Currently, the lab is studying non-canonical functions of small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs), regulated RNA degradation, and translational regulation in response to metabolic stress. Other areas of interest are post-lysosomal cholesterol trafficking networks and disruption of these pathway in inherited disorders of cholesterol metabolism.

Education and training

Undergraduate: Harvard College, Cambridge, MA
Medical school: Harvard Medical School (Health Sciences & Technology Program), Boston, MA
Postdoctoral training: Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


For publications, see here.