David M Wilson III Neurosciences group

“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

DNA Repair
Disease Susceptibility
Premature 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 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 choreography of key DNA repair mechanisms, 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 function and promote healthspan.

Active Funding Support

Alzheimer Research Foundation (SAO-FRA, https://www.stopalzheimer.be/; 3 yr project, starting 2022)

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, 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, Frontiers Aging

Reviews Editor, Cellular of Molecular Life Sciences

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.

Key publications

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

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

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., Deacon, A.M., Duncton, M.A.J., Pellicena, P., Georgiadis, M.M., Yeh, A.P., Arvai, A.S., Moiani, D., Tainer, J.A., and Das, D. Fragment- and structure-based drug discovery for developing therapeutic agents targeting the DNA damage response. Prog. Biophys. Mol. Biol. 163:130-142, 2021

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

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

PhD Students

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


Senior Master Students

Shannen Leroi
Hasselt University, Biomedical Sciences
Nov 2021-present

Former Members (from most recent)

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: Lobke Mombeek, Annelore Bogaert, Yakum Bertrand Nkeh, Clara van Meegan, Janne Verreycken, Nicola Bestetti, 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

The GRAND Team currently has an open position for a post-doctoral scientist to conduct research related to genome protection and Alzheimer disease

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.