Jean E. Schaffer, MD
Jean E. Schaffer, MD, the Virginia Minnich Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Director of the Diabetes Research Center and Diabetic Cardiovascular Disease Center, is recognized for her distinguished contributions advancing the understanding of cardiovascular pathophysiology in metabolic disease.
An internationally recognized physician-scientist, Schaffer’s research focuses on lipid metabolism and cardiometabolic disease. She was the first to identify two proteins — fatty acid transport protein and acyl-CoA synthetase— involved in cellular transport of fatty acids. This discovery opened the door to a new field in the cell biology of lipid trafficking. Much of her work has focused on the metabolic stress that results in lipid overload states. Her laboratory has developed novel models of diabetic cardiomyopathy and used genetic screens in cultured mammalian cells to identify loci that are critical determinants of tissue responses to lipid overload. The latter approach led to the discovery of a new role for small nucleolar RNAs in cell death responses to lipotoxic and oxidative stress. In addition, she and her group are translating their findings in human studies to identify lipid biomarkers of diabetic cardiovascular disease and to test whether treatments aimed at lowering triglycerides improve cardiac function in diabetic patients.
Schaffer is the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Heart Association’s Established Investigator Award and the Heinrich Wieland Prize for Lipid Research. In 2008, she was named the Virginia Minnich Distinguished Professor of Medicine at Washington University. Since joining the faculty in 1995, she has continuously secured multiple large National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants and other funding for her research.
Schaffer earned her undergraduate and medical degrees from Harvard and completed clinical and post-doctoral training at Harvard and MIT.