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"Delineating the Role of Genome Maintenance Mechanisms in Disease Etiology"

"Developing Mechanism-Based Strategies for Safeguarding Healthy Aging"

DNA, our genetic blueprint, is susceptible to a large number of modifications, including those arising from errors during the normal copying of the genome, spontaneous decay, reactions with natural chemical species (e.g., free radicals), or exposure to environmental genotoxic agents, such as sunlight or air pollutants. 
Persistent damage to DNA can adversely affect normal cellular processes, namely DNA replication or RNA transcription, leading to permanent genetic changes or metabolic stress.  Such outcomes can result in cell death, transformation, or senescence, fates that underlie degenerative diseases, cancer, and aging. 
To avert the deleterious consequences of DNA damage, cells have evolved a collection of integrated systems that sense, respond to, and repair genotoxic damage or stress.  Inherited or sporadic defects in these systems result in cancer predisposition, neurological abnormalities, immune-dysfunction, and premature aging, to name a few. 
The aim of our research is to (i) define the biochemical and molecular choreography of key DNA repair mechanisms, (ii) determine how defects in these processes give rise to disease and aging, and (iii) identify therapeutic approaches that counteract repair mechanism deficiencies and preserve healthspan.

Prof. Dr. Wilson was born in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois in the United States of America.  He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Biology and Political Science from Bucknell University.  He did his PhD doctoral studies at Loyola University – Stritch School of Medicine in the Molecular Biology Program under the direction of Dr. Mark R. Kelley.  He conducted post-doctoral training in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Toxicology at Harvard University – School of Public Health under the guidance of Dr. Bruce Demple.  His independent research efforts began at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the Biology and Biotechnology Research Program, before moving to the National Institute on Aging (intramural research program of the National Institutes of Health), where he was a Senior Investigator and Chief of the Repair of Endogenous DNA Damage Section.  Prof. Dr. Wilson began his current position at Hasselt University in the Neurosciences Group in 2020.

Current Professional Service

Reviews Editor, Cellular of Molecular Life Sciences

Editorial Board, Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis

Editorial Board, International Journal of Molecular Sciences

Hasselt University Representative to European Molecular Biology Laboratory

Past Professional Service

Associate Editor, Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis

Editorial Board, Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

Editorial Board, Carcinogenesis

Associate Editor, Mechanisms of Aging and Development

Editorial Board, Current Aging Science

Councilor & Executive Board Member, Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society

Have served as an external reviewer for too many manuscripts and over 40 grant applications, the latter of which has involved participation on several funding-agency grant panels.

Have been an invited speaker at over 40 international conferences and over 50 universities/institutions world-wide.

Dumitache, L.C., Shimada, M., Downing, S.M., Li, Y., Illuzzi, J.L., Russell, H.R., Wilson III, D.M., and McKinnon, P.J. Apurinic endonuclease-1 preserves genome integrity to maintain homeostasis, thermoregulation and prevent brain tumors. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 115:E12285-E12294, 2018

Iyama, T., Golato, T., Lu, H., Hamilton, R., Raja, A., Bohr, V.A., and Wilson III, D.M. Regulation of the intranuclear distribution of the Cockayne syndrome proteins. Sci. Reports 8:17490, 2018

Li, M., Yang, X., Lu, X., Dai, N., Zhang, S., Cheng, Y., Zhang, L., Yang, Y., Liu, Y., Yang, Z., Wang, D., and Wilson III, D.M. APE1 deficiency promotes cellular senescence and premature aging features in mice. Nucleic Acids Res. 46:5664-5677, 2018

McNeill, D.R., Whitaker, A.M., Stark, W.J., Illuzzi, J.L., McKinnon, P.J., Freudenthal, B.D., and Wilson III, D.M. Functions of the major abasic endonuclease (APE1) in cell viability and genotoxin resistance. Mutagenesis 35:27-38, 2020

Tiwari, V., and Wilson III, D.M. DNA damage and associated DNA repair defects in disease and premature aging. Amer. J. Hum. Genet. 105:237-257, 2019

Wilson III, D.M., Rieckher, M., Williams, A.B., and Schumacher, Björn. Systematic analysis of DNA crosslink repair pathways during development and aging in C. elegans. Nucleic Acids Res. 45:9467-9480, 2017

Complete list of peer-reviewed, journal publications can be found here.

PhD Students

Elle Scheijen


DNA Repair Mechanisms Protect Against Secondary Neuronal Loss Following Spinal Cord Injury



Master Students

Yakum Bertrand Nkeh
Hasselt University, Biomedical Sciences
Feb 2021-Apr 2021


Annelore Bogaert
KU Leuven, Biochemistry and Biotechnology
Feb 2021-Jun 2021


Lobke Mombeek
KU Leuven, Biochemistry and Biotechnology
Feb 2021-Jun 2021


Bachelor Students

Nicola Bestetti
Maastricht University, Biomedical Sciences
Apr 2021-Jul 2021


We are always looking for highly motivated students and post-docs.  If you are interested in joining the Wilson laboratory, please send an email to me directly.  Those seeking graduate or post-doctoral opportunities should include a current CV, list of references, and a brief description of your research interests.  Please be prepared to apply for fellowships to join the laboratory.