Prof Mark Hanson, research lead for childhood development and health

MarkHansonResearch lead for LifeLab and the centre's research into childhood obesity, growth, development and health, Professor Mark Hanson has a personal focus on the early origins of non-communicable diseases including obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Nutritional influences on early development

Mark’s current research centres on how maternal nutrition during foetal development affects the way that inherited genes operate. This influences how as individuals we respond to our environment and different lifestyles, and has implications for the risk of disease later in our lives.

These epigenetic mechanisms (factors affecting how and when genes are expressed) are distinct from the genes which we have inherited themselves, often with significant influence over genetic contribution to disease risk and health. This work is allowing us to determine how epigenetic mechanisms may indicate risk of later disease, and how they could be used to help prevent individuals developing such disease through targeted interventions. 

International policy and advocacy

Mark is the current president of the International Society for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease; he is involved in consultancy and advocacy work with many organisations across the developed and developing worlds, including the World Health Organisation. 

Promoting health literacy

Mark has a particular interest in the opportunities for education to promote health literacy in adolescents, as a way of reducing their disease risk in later life - and to give their future children, the next generation,  a healthy start to life.

Trained as a physiologist and a teacher and having devoted the last forty years of his  life to education and academic work to promote health in the population, Mark was one of the founders of the LifeLab initiative in Southampton.