Campbell Hall 175
(205) 934-4573

Research and Teaching Interests: Research Interests: Epigenetics, Telomerase, Cancer Prevention, Aging, Molecular Biology, Gene Regulation

Trygve Tollefsbol. Office Hours: By appointment

  • BS, University of Houston, Biology
  • MS, University of North Texas Health Sciences Center (Denton and Fort Worth), Basic Health Sciences
  • PhD, University of North Texas Health Sciences Center, Molecular Biology
  • DO, University of North Texas Health Sciences Center, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Duke University Medical Center

Dr. Tollefsbol is a professor of Biology and a senior scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, Comprehensive Center for Healthy Aging, Nutrition Obesity Research Center, and the Comprehensive Diabetes Center. He is director of the UAB Cell Senescence Culture Facility, which he established in 1999. Dr. Tollefsbol has published over 100 articles related to the fields of epigenetics, telomerase, aging, and cancer and has received generous funding from the National Institutes of Health as well as the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR), and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), among other sources. Work from his laboratory has been featured in Women’s Health, Shape, AICR Newsletter, Nutrition Action HealthLetter, More Magazine, and AARP The Magazine, among others, with a total readership of over 25 million. He has been a Scientist in the Spotlight in ScienceNow.

Dr. Tollefsbol is series editor for Translational Epigenetics published by Elsevier. He also serves as an associate editor for Frontiers in Epigenomics and is on the editorial boards of Clinical Epigenetics and Molecular Biotechnology. He is a contributing editor of Lewin’s GENES, the classic textbook on molecular biology. Dr. Tollefsbol has been invited to give presentations on his research in many countries including Germany, China, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Sweden, as well as at various leading institutions in the US. His research has received considerable media attention both nationally and internationally and has been highlighted in eScience News and ScienceDaily. He has published over ten co-authored and edited books on varied topics such as epigenetics, telomerase, aging, cancer, and molecular biology.

CV: Download pdf

Dr. Tollefsbol's research is primarily involved with cancer and aging epigenetics, the underlying mechanisms of cancer and aging and novel therapeutic approaches to cancer. This work has also involved translational research on breast and ovarian cancer as well as other cancers. The single most important risk factor for developing cancer is age; therefore, both cancer and aging have been a focus of his research.

Tollefsbol and studentsEpigenetic processes are heritable changes that do not involve mutations, but rather, modifications of DNA or its associated proteins and Dr. Tollefsbol's laboratory is interested in these processes as controllers of gene expression in cancer and aging in general. We are interested in discovering novel approaches of modifying epigenetic gene expression in cancers and aging and the translational potential of epigenetic-modulating nutritional compounds in inhibiting cancer and impacting aging. The laboratory is using or has plans to use many cutting-edge technological developments in cancer and aging genetics and translational research such as chromatin immunoprecipitation-genomic bisulfite sequencing, ChIP-seq, and MeDIP-seq.

Studies on the role of telomerase in cancer and aging have made many lists of the most important future research areas in biological sciences. Dr. Tollefsbol's laboratory is also interested in the epigenetic regulation of the gene that produces telomerase (hTERT) and in unraveling the mysteries of how this gene relates to cancer and aging. Located at the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes and synthesized by the enzyme telomerase, telomeres maintain the length of chromosomes. The majority of human cancer cells express high levels of telomerase and inhibition of telomerase activity kills the cancer cells without effect on most normal somatic cells.

Dr. Tollefsbol’s laboratory directs a Cell Senescence Culture Facility that provides various types of aging cells to investigators nationwide. This facility is one of only a few of this type in the United States and is designed to not only facilitate studies of aging, but to also participate in new investigations in the mechanisms of cellular aging and age-related diseases such as cancer.
  • Advanced Molecular Genetics
  • Embryology
Current students:
  • Gregoy Peek (PhD Program): Epigenetics of cancer prevention.
  • Michael Daniel (MS Program): Cancer prevention epigenetics.
  • Ireland Award Ceremony: Tollefsbol and students
  • Yifeng Gao (PhD Program): Epigenetics of cancer inhibition and aging.
  • Samantha Martin (MS Program): Epigenetics of cancer and aging.
  • Rishabh Kala (PhD Program): Nutritional epigenetic impact on cancer and aging.
  • Bidisha Paul (PhD Program): Epigenetics of cancer prevention.
  • Kendra Royston (PhD Program): Nutritional epigenetics in cancer.
  • Kayla Lewis (MS Program): Epigenetics of cancer.
Download a list of past graduate students.
  • Tollefsbol, T.O., ed., Handbook of Epigenetics: The New Molecular and Medical Genetics (Academic Press, 2011). "The Handbook of Epigenetics contains an impressive collection of 37 articles, mainly dealing with the biology of epigenetics. Covered topics range from molecular marks and mechanism, other model systems, epidemiology, aging and the brain to diseases…. In summary, the Handbook of Epigenetics provides a unique and useful combination of information and it is a valuable addition to the bookshelf of scientists with experience in the field." — CHEMBIOCHEM
  • Tollefsbol, T.O., ed., Epigenetics in Human Disease (Academic Press, 2012). "This volume constitutes a comprehensive survey of the emerging field of epigenetics in the etiology, progression, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of human diseases… With its translational focus, this book will serve as valuable reference for both basic scientists and clinicians alike." Anticancer Research 33 (No. 5, May 2013).
  • Tollefsbol, T.O., ed., Transgenerational Epigenetics (Academic Press, 2014).
  • UAB Ireland Prize for Scholarly Distinction, 2015
  • Principal Investigator: “Combinatorial epigenetic-based prevention of breast cancer”; National Institutes of Health R01 grant (Division of Cancer Prevention — National Cancer Institute)
  • Director: Cell Senescence Culture Facility
  • Series Editor: Translational Epigenetics by Elsevier
  • Associate Editor: Frontiers in Epigenomics
  • Editorial Boards: Clinical Epigenetics, Molecular Biotechnology
  • Contributing Editor: Lewin’s GENES
  • Epigenetics Society
  • American Association for Cancer Research
  • Center for Aging Steering Committee, 2000-2014
  • College of Arts and Sciences Inaugural Promotion and Tenure Committee, 2012-2013
  • Council for Postdoctoral Education, 2006-2011