David M Wilson III

Neurosciences Group

The GRAND Team (Genome Repair in Aging and Neurodegenerative Disease)

“Delineating the Role of Genome Maintenance Mechanisms in Neurodegenerative Disease”

“Developing Mechanism-Based Strategies for Safeguarding Healthy Aging”

Prof. dr. David M Wilson III

Professor of Neurosciences

Disease Susceptibility
DNA Damage Repair
Molecular Mechanisms of Aging
Neurodegenerative Disease
Oxidative Stress




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., reactive oxygen species), and 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 or resolve genotoxic damage or genomic stress.  Inherited or sporadic defects in these systems result in cancer predisposition, neurodegenerative disease, immune dysfunction, and premature aging, to name a few.  The aim of the GRAND Team is to (i) define the biochemical and molecular mechanisms of key DNA repair systems, particularly those related to oxidative DNA damage, (ii) determine how defects in these processes give rise to degenerative disease and aging, and (iii) develop mechanism-based therapeutic approaches that preserve genome integrity and promote healthspan, i.e., the time one spends in good health.


Active Funding Support

Alzheimer Research Foundation (SAO-FRA, https://www.stopalzheimer.be/; 3 yr project, starting 2023)

Aβ-Tau cascade promotes oxidative stress and genomic damage that drives neuronal cell loss: DNA repair mechanisms as therapeutic targets in Alzheimer disease


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 in California, before moving to the National Institute on Aging (Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health) in Baltimore, Maryland, where he was a Senior Investigator and Chief of the Repair of Endogenous DNA Damage Section for approximately 17 years.  Prof. Dr. Wilson moved to Belgium with his family in 2019 and began his current position at Hasselt University in the Neurosciences Group shortly thereafter.


Current Professional Service

Reviews Editor / Associate Editor, Cellular of Molecular Life Sciences
Reviews Editor, Frontiers Aging
Hasselt University Representative to European Molecular Biology Laboratory


Past Professional Service

Editorial Board, International Journal of Molecular Sciences
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

I have served as an external reviewer for too many manuscripts and grant applications, the latter of which has involved participation on several funding-agency grant panels (e.g., National Institutes of Health, Dutch Research Council (NWO)).

Have been an invited speaker at over 40 international conferences and over 50 universities/institutions world-wide, recently operating on the organizing committee and as session chair for the 7th US-EU Conference on Repair of Endogenous DNA Damage held at Stony Brook University in 2022.

Representative Publications

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

Scheijen, E.E.M., and Wilson III, D.M. Genome integrity and neurological disease. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 23:4142, 2022

Tiwari, V., Kulikowicz, T., Wilson III*, D.M., and Bohr*, V.A. LEO1 is a partner of Cockayne syndrome B protein in response to transcription-blocking DNA damage. Nucleic Acids Res. 49:6331-6346, 2021 (*co-corresponding authors)

Wilson III, D.M., Cookson, M.R., Van Den Bosch, L., Zetterberg, H., Holtzman, D.M., and Dewachter, I. Hallmarks of neurodegenerative diseases. Cell 186:693-714, 2023.

Full details here.


Post-Doctoral Scientist(s)

 Luidy Issayama


Aβ-Tau cascade promotes oxidative stress and   genomic damage that drives neuronal cell   loss  in Alzheimer disease


PhD Student(s)

 Elle Scheijen


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

 Lobke Mombeek


The role of the DNA repair protein Apex1 in enteric nervous system development and function


Senior Master Students

Anton Brosens

Anouar Dlalat

Former Members (from most recent)

Hasselt University

Bachelor students: Christella Igiraneza, Yoni Van Reeth, Clara van Meegan, Janne Verreycken, Nicola Bestetti

Junior Master students: Dylan Kidjemet, Charlotte Peetersem, Chelsea Hayen, Lobke Mombeek, Annelore Bogaert, Yakum Bertrand Nkeh

Senior Master students: Shannen Leroi

Technical interns:  Helene Vranken

Technical staff: Jolien Neven

Visiting researchers: Manuela Cabua, Luidy Kazuo Issayama

National Institute on Aging/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Post-doctoral scientists: Vinod Tiwari, Arina Perez, Rachel Abbotts, Teruaki Iyama, Jennifer Illuzzi, Peter Sykora, Mengxia Li, Naga Vyjayanti Vaddadi, Brian Berquist, Yun-Jeong Kim, Avanti Kulkarni, Heng-Kuan Wong, Jinshui Fan, Lam Nguyen, Laura Schild, Masood Hadi, Peter Beernink, Byung-In Lee

Student researchers: William Nathan, Aleah Scott, Christopher Mays, Mary Higgins, Tyler Golato, Boris Brenerman, Royce Hamilton, Nnejiuwa Ibe, Nicola Harris, Jakita Baldwin, Kevin Yang, Hanh Nguyen, Elizabeth Gillenwater, Avinash Narayana, Troy Sofinowski

Visiting researchers: Mariana Bonjiorno Martins, Jinsil Kim, Mattia Poletta, Rachel Abbotts, Agathi-Vasiliki Goula, Daemyung Kim

Technical staff: Daniel McNeill, David Maciejewski, Brent Hamaoka, Jan Erzberger


Not only great science, but the fastest at deciphering the escape room (record of the month in 2022).  Me, Elle Scheijen, Luidy Issayama, and Shannen Leroi.

Holiday dinner at Juan Luis in Hasselt.  Me, Elle Scheijen, Luidy Issayama, and Helen Vranken.

Holiday dinner 2023 at De Orangerie in Hasselt. Lobke Mombeek, Elle Scheijen, me.

We are always looking for highly motivated students and post-docs.  If you are interested in joining the GRAND Team, please send an email directly to Prof Wilson.  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.