Malene Hansen, Ph.D.

Malene Hansen's Research Focus

Metabolic Diseases, Aging-Related Diseases, Cancer, Neurodegenerative Diseases

Aging is a fundamental biological reality that is familiar to all of us. But how do organisms age at the molecular level? Several genes and processes have been identified that affect the rate of aging, many of which play important roles in highly conserved signaling pathways with relevance to age-related diseases like cancer and neurodegeneration. However, how these processes and conserved genes affect aging at the cellular and molecular level to influence organismal aging is not fully understood. The Hansen lab's research is directed towards understanding the molecular mechanisms that affect the process of aging.

Using a combination of genetic, cytological and biochemical approaches in the genetically tractable model organism C. elegans as well as in mammalian cell culture, we focus on unraveling how several evolutionarily conserved signaling pathways and processes modulate organismal aging. 

A particular focus of the lab is to understand the role of autophagy, a basic cellular process by which cytosolic components are being degraded and recycled (Figure 1), in organismal aging. Autophagy has been linked to many age-related diseases as well as aging, and new molecular insights on how autophagy functions in aging may facilitate future treatments of age-linked disorders, including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. 

model summarizing the (macro) autophagy process

Malene Hansen's Bio

Malene Hansen received her early training at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. She received a Master’s degree in Biochemistry in 1998 and a Ph.D. degree in Molecular Biology in 2001. During this time, Dr. Hansen worked as a trainee in several labs in the US, including the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla. After her Ph.D, Dr. Hansen trained as a postdoctoral fellow in molecular genetics at the University of California in San Francisco. Dr. Hansen received postdoctoral funding from the Danish National Research Councils as well as an Ellison/American Federation of Aging Research Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship. Dr. Hansen was recruited to Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in September 2007.


2017 National Postdoctoral Association Mentor Award

Whole-body expression of tandem-tagged (mCherry::GFP) LGG-1/Atg8/LC3 in adult C. elegans.


Spatiotemporal regulation of autophagy during Caenorhabditis elegans aging.

Chang JT, Kumsta C, Hellman AB, Adams LM, Hansen M

Elife 2017 Jul 4 ;6

Hormetic heat stress and HSF-1 induce autophagy to improve survival and proteostasis in C. elegans.

Kumsta C, Chang JT, Schmalz J, Hansen M

Nat Commun 2017 Feb 15 ;8:14337

Phosphorylation of LC3 by the Hippo kinases STK3/STK4 is essential for autophagy.

Wilkinson DS, Jariwala JS, Anderson E, Mitra K, Meisenhelder J, Chang JT, Ideker T, Hunter T, Nizet V, Dillin A, Hansen M

Mol Cell 2015 Jan 8 ;57(1):55-68

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Macroautophagy and aging: The impact of cellular recycling on health and longevity.

Nieto-Torres JL, Hansen M

Mol Aspects Med 2021 Sep 7 ;:101020

Autophagy in major human diseases.

Klionsky DJ, Petroni G, Amaravadi RK, Baehrecke EH, Ballabio A, Boya P, Bravo-San Pedro JM, Cadwell K, Cecconi F, Choi AMK, Choi ME, Chu CT, Codogno P, Colombo MI, Cuervo AM, Deretic V, Dikic I, Elazar Z, Eskelinen EL, Fimia GM, Gewirtz DA, Green DR, Hansen M, Jäättelä M, Johansen T, Juhász G, Karantza V, Kraft C, Kroemer G, Ktistakis NT, Kumar S, Lopez-Otin C, Macleod KF, Madeo F, Martinez J, Meléndez A, Mizushima N, Münz C, Penninger JM, Perera RM, Piacentini M, Reggiori F, Rubinsztein DC, Ryan KM, Sadoshima J, Santambrogio L, Scorrano L, Simon HU, Simon AK, Simonsen A, Stolz A, Tavernarakis N, Tooze SA, Yoshimori T, Yuan J, Yue Z, Zhong Q, Galluzzi L, Pietrocola F

EMBO J 2021 Oct 1 ;40(19):e108863

LC3B phosphorylation: autophagosome's ticket for a ride toward the cell nucleus.

Nieto-Torres JL, Encalada SE, Hansen M

Autophagy 2021 Oct ;17(10):3266-3268

The San Diego Nathan Shock Center: tackling the heterogeneity of aging.

Shadel GS, Adams PD, Berggren WT, Diedrich JK, Diffenderfer KE, Gage FH, Hah N, Hansen M, Hetzer MW, Molina AJA, Manor U, Marek K, O'Keefe DD, Pinto AFM, Sacco A, Sharpee TO, Shokriev MN, Zambetti S

Geroscience 2021 Aug 9 ;

LC3B phosphorylation regulates FYCO1 binding and directional transport of autophagosomes.

Nieto-Torres JL, Shanahan SL, Chassefeyre R, Chaiamarit T, Zaretski S, Landeras-Bueno S, Verhelle A, Encalada SE, Hansen M

Curr Biol 2021 Aug 9 ;31(15):3440-3449.e7

Beyond Autophagy: The Expanding Roles of ATG8 Proteins.

Nieto-Torres JL, Leidal AM, Debnath J, Hansen M

Trends Biochem Sci 2021 Aug ;46(8):673-686

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