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Trygve Tollefsbol headshot.

Distinguished Professor This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
3127 East Science Hall, Science & Engineering Complex
(205) 934-4573

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

Office Hours: By appointment


  • B.S., University of Houston, Biology
  • M.S., University of North Texas Health Sciences Center (Denton and Fort Worth), Basic Health Sciences
  • Ph.D., 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 distinguished professor of Biology and a senior scientist in the UAB O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, Integrative Center for Aging Research, Nutrition Obesity Research Center, Comprehensive Diabetes Center, and the university-wide Microbiome Center. He is director of the UAB Cell Senescence Culture Facility, which he established in 1999.


Research Opportunities

Dr. Tollefsbol is accepting graduate students. If you are interested in joining his lab, please send him an email that outlines your research interests, as well as your curriculum vitae.

Dr. Tollefsbol holds doctorate degrees in molecular biology and osteopathic medicine and has published over 180 articles related to the fields of epigenetics, telomerase, aging, and cancer. He 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, London’s Daily Mail and AARP The Magazine, among others, with a total readership of over 40 million. He has been a Scientist in the Spotlight with the NIH as well as in ScienceNow.

Dr. Tollefsbol is series editor for Translational Epigenetics published by Elsevier. In addition, he serves as an associate editor for Frontiers in Epigenomics and 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 15 co-authored and edited books on varied topics such as epigenetics, telomerase, aging, cancer, and molecular biology.

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  • Research Interests

    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.

    Epigenetic 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 RRBS-seq and ChIP-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.

  • Recent Courses
    • Advanced Molecular Genetics
    • Embryology
  • Current Graduate Students
    • Andrew Brane, Ph.D. Program: Epigenetic molecular editing, dietary epigenetics and cancer prevention
    • Mohammad Mijanur Rahman, Ph.D. Program: Epigenetic molecular editing and dietary cancer prevention
    • Huixin Wu, GBS Ph.D. Program: Epigenetics of the gut microbiome in cancer prevention and therapy
    • Sebanti Ganguly, Ph.D. Program: Cancer prevention using dietary epigenetic intervention
    • Brittany Witt, Ph.D. Program: Epigenetics of the gut microbiome in cancer prevention
  • Current Postdoctoral Fellows
    • Shizhao Li, Ph.D.: Epigenetic mechanisms for early-life cancer prevention
  • Select Publications


    • Tollefsbol, T.O., ed., Medical Epigenetics (Academic Press, 2016). PROSE Award (Honorable Mention in Clinical Medicine category) by the American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence. The awards have been issued since 1976 for "the very best in professional and scholarly publishing”. Also received "Highly Commended" award from the British Medical Association, 2017.
    • Tollefsbol, T.O., ed., Transgenerational Epigenetics (Academic Press, 2014).
      “Wonderfully designed and full of provocative subjects.... This book is the first to be devoted in its entirety to transgenerational epigenetics. This book is of use to all individuals interested in gene expression and the influence of the environment on gene behavior. It is of extreme importance for medical genetics specialists who seek further understanding of the etiology of genetic disorders, and it provides information to aid the in understanding of diagnostic genomic results. In addition, teachers of genetics may find this book useful for incorporating epigenetic information into high school, undergraduate, and graduate level courses. This book is without comparison.” — Luis F. Escobar, MD, MS; St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center; Doody’s Book Reviews.
    • 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


  • Academic Distinctions and Professional Societies
    • Distinguished Professor, 2021
    • Frontiers in Genetics 2021 Outstanding Associate Editor Award – Specialty Section, Epigenomics and Epigenetics
    • UAB Ireland Prize for Scholarly Distinction, 2015
    • Principal Investigator: “Early life prevention of breast cancer with combined epigenetic botanicals”; National Institutes of Health R01 grant (Division of Cancer Prevention — National Cancer Institute)
    • 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
    • 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