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The University of Southampton

Professor Mark Hanson MA, DPhil, PGCE, FRCOG (a.e.), FRCPCH (Hon)

British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiovascular Science

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Professor Mark Hanson is British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiovascular Science within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton.

Professor Mark Hanson is one of the UK’s leading researchers on developmental pathways to disease. He is ex-President of the International Society for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease and was a founder member and former secretary of the Society. He has served on a range of committees in government, charitable and NGOs focusing on the importance of adopting a life-course perspective to new ways of reducing the burden of non-communicable disease globally. In the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton he leads the early life nutrition theme of the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre. He was awarded the Paul Harris Medal by the Rotary Foundation in October 2008.  Overseas he holds visiting appointments in Auckland, Singapore, and Jamaica. He was awarded the Rector’s Medal, University of Chile, Santiago and the title of Illustrious Professor at the Catholic University of Chile in July 2016.

Mark has published more than 500 original papers, reviews and book chapters, and 15 books. His research concerns several aspects of development and health, ranging from how the environment before and after birth affects the risk of chronic disease – such as cardiovascular and chronic lung disease, diabetes and obesity – to population studies aimed at the early identification of risk, so that timely preventative interventions can be made. The group are exploring the epigenetic processes which relate to such risks, and which may serve as valuable early life biomarkers. His Institute works on these problems in both developed and developing countries in many parts of the world. Mark is particularly interested in the links between medical science and society and was a founder member of the Wellcome Trust’s Sci-Art panel. He is much involved in educational projects to promote health literacy in school students and was a one of the founders of LifeLab – a purpose built classroom and laboratory in the hospital which has now engaged more than 11,000 adolescents from the Wessex region in the science behind health messages.  He is very active in the public understanding of science and in explaining how evolutionary thinking applies to human biology and medicine. His recent popular science books include Mismatch – the lifestyle diseases timebomb (2006) which is translated into Mandarin, Portuguese and German, Principles of Evolutionary Medicine 2nd Edn 2015 and Fat, Fate & Disease (2012), all published by OUP and Ingenious: the unintended consequences of human innovation (2019, Harvard University Press).

See profile in Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology


Appointments held

Research interests

Mark’s research over many years has been translated to experimental medicine and to healthcare and public health at multiple levels. Overall it concerns the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease. He was the leading proponent of the concept that the fetus responds to aspects of its environment, and that this has long-term consequences after birth.

His research has informed clinical medicine in several fields, as recognised by his election to ad eundem or honorary fellowships of the RCOG and RCPCH and the award of the FIGO Distinguished Merit Award in 2018.  

Examples of his track record in translational medicine include:

  • Development of a method for measuring respiratory chemoreflexes in neonates, applied to preterm infants and those suffering from bronchopulmonary dysplasia.
  • Involvement over many years in the technology and analysis for measuring blood flow in the fetal circulation investigation of the factors regulating it, followed by its application to human fetuses to define longitudinal reference ranges through gestation, the effects of maternal slimness and diet and of intrauterine growth restriction or fetal macrosomia.
  • Pioneering the use of near-infra red spectroscopy for measuring fetal brain oxygenation, blood volume and oxidative state, now piloted for use for fetal monitoring in labour
  • Study of the human placenta to define processes regulating amino acid transport to the fetus in relation to maternal body composition and diet.
  • Investigation of the biology underlying transgenerational effects of prenatal exposure to malnutrition and application in the investigation of cohorts in both developed and developing societies to assess developmental contributions to health in later life
  • Development, with funding from public and private sources, of epigenetic biomarkers for use at birth in assessing the impact of maternal diet and lifestyle as predictors of later risk factors such as childhood adiposity


Human Development and Health

Affiliate Department(s)

Human Development and Physiology, Institute of Developmental Sciences

Research project(s)

Identification of perinatal epigenetic markers of later phenotype

Mark has served on external review panels for departments and units conducting basic-clinical research translation, in NZ, Canada, Brazil, Jamaica, Hong Kong, China, Dundee, Aberdeen and Dublin.

Mark was senior author of an invited report for BMA on Early Life Nutrition and Lifelong Health (2009); Co-Chair of Working Group on Science and Evidence for the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, reporting to the Director-General of WHO (July 2014); Co-Chair of FIGO Committee on Pregnancy and NCD (November 2017- ); Co-chair of technical meetings or advisor to WHO Assistant Directors-General Bustreo and Neira.

Mark was Senior Editor for 4 books in the series The Fetus and Neonate – physiology and clinical applications on: The Circulation; Breathing; Kidney & Body Fluids; Growth (Cambridge University Press).

Mark was Co-Editor of The Newborn Brain – neuroscience and clinical applications (now in 2nd edition) (Cambridge University Press); Co-Editor of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (2006) (Cambridge University Press); author of Principles of Evolutionary Medicine (2009) (Oxford University Press) (translated into Italian and Turkish); 2nd edition published 2016 (translated into Greek).

Mark has given over 300 invited lectures at clinical research meetings, presenting the results of on-going research and its applications.

Recent Media

Adolescent Health: The Forgotten Generation

UK Government's Plan to tackle Obesity could deliver too little, too late

Mothers of Intervention

Fed up with Obesity? Me too, but we have to keep fighting the fight

Beyond Bad Genes: NCD Transmission. FIGO

Mark has successfully supervised 36 and has 3 current post-graduate students.

He currently lectures to BM4 and BM5 students on Developmental Origins of Health and Disease and to BIOL3044 students on Evolutionary and Developmental Biology and Medicine.

Professor Mark Hanson
Phone: (023) 8120 5255
Fax: (023) 8120 4221

Room Number: SGH/IDS/DSC09/MP887

Facsimile:(023) 8120 4221

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