To ensure that cells function normally, tens of thousands of genes must be turned on or off together. To do this, regulatory molecules - transcription factors and non-coding RNAs – simultaneously control hundreds of genes. My group studies how the resulting gene networks function and how they can be compromised in human disease.
Human development requires the regulated activity of thousands of genes in hundreds of distinct cell types throughout life. One requirement for this process is that each cell must contain an intact, functional genome free from mutations. One type of mutation can arise from the activation of transposable elements (TEs). These viral-like parasites lay dormant within our genomes, but have the capacity to hop into new genomic locations, causing mutations as they break the surrounding DNA sequence. Mounting evidence has implicated transposon activity in a host of human diseases, with particular evidence for TE activation in neurodegenerative diseases: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and fronto-temporal dimensia (FTD).
Public Lecture: SEEING WITH SEQUENCING
March 13, 2019
Over 400 years ago, the invention of the microscope opened up a new world of discovery. Just sixteen years ago, the completion of the Human Genome Project launched a similar revolution in science. Since then, the continued advancement of high-throughput DNA sequencing – and quantitative methods for extracting knowledge from massive sequence datasets – has...
Molly Hammell wins CZI award for ALS study
December 5, 2018
Associate Professor Molly Hammell has been awarded the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) Ben Barres Early Career Acceleration Award for her proposed work on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better know by the acronym ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that causes complete paralysis and eventual death due to the rapid and progressive loss...
Redefining biologists, redefining genes
May 16, 2017
Base Pairs podcast Set aside your notions of how biologists are born, or what the word “gene” means as you listen to our first chat episode. We talk with Assistant Professor Molly Hammell, a genome biologist who started out as an astrophysicist. She tells us what it’s like to peer deep into space using a...
Research suggests a possible role for a storm of ‘jumping genes’ in ALS
March 27, 2017
Do genome-defending anti-transposon systems collapse in ALS patients? Stony Brook and Cold Spring Harbor, NY — By inserting an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)-linked human gene called TDP-43 into fruit flies, researchers at Stony Brook University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) discovered a potential role for transposons in the disease. Transposons, which are also called jumping...
Dark matter of the genome, part 1
March 15, 2017
Base Pairs podcast Could “genome” be a misnomer? The name implies that our genetic information is mainly genes, yet when the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003, it revealed that genes comprise a tiny minority. About 98 percent of the genome is something else—a kind of genomic dark matter. We’re kicking off the second...
Riding out of the shadows of ALS, toward better treatments
August 1, 2016
Watson School graduate Lisa Krug studied ALS in flies, but the human element of this research always remained present for her. She explains in this guest blog post. LS is a disease that makes itself nearly invisible. Although each year 6,400 Americans are diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, often called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, they...
ALS Ride for Life comes to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
May 23, 2016
Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. – ALS researchers and others from CSHL gathered to welcome Chris Pendergast and his ALS Ride for Life team to campus on Monday, May 16, marking the end of Day 7 of an annual 12-day, 100-plus mile patient wheelchair ride across Long Island to raise money for ALS research, support and awareness. This was the...
Ride For Life gives $300,000 for ALS research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL)
October 20, 2015
Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. – ALS Ride For Life this month presented $300,000 to CSHL Assistant Professor Molly Hammell and Associate Professor Josh Dubnau to pursue research into possible genetic causes of the devastating disease. Since 1997, Ride For Life has conducted an annual twelve-day, one hundred plus mile patient wheelchair ride across Long Island...
CSHL’s Dr. Molly Hammell named 2014 Rita Allen Foundation Scholar
July 1, 2014
Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Assistant Professor Molly Hammell has been recognized as one of seven 2014 Rita Allen Scholars. The award supports promising early-career investigators, providing up to $110,000 annually for five years. Hammell has been designated the Milton E. Cassel Scholar, the Foundation’s highest honor, which pays tribute...
Storm of ‘awakened’ transposons may cause brain-cell pathologies in ALS, other illnesses
September 4, 2012
Cold Spring Harbor, NY — A team of neuroscientists and informatics experts at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) reports important progress in an effort to understand the relationship between transposons—sequences of DNA that can jump around within the genome, potentially causing great damage—and mechanisms involved in serious neurodegenerative disorders including ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also...
Krug, L. and Chatterjee, N. and Borges-Monroy, R. and Hearn, S. and Liao, W. W. and Morrill, K. and Prazak, L. and Rozhkov, N. and Theodorou, D. and Hammell, M. and Dubnau, J. (2017) Retrotransposon activation contributes to neurodegeneration in a Drosophila TDP-43 model of ALS. PLoS Genet, 13(3) pp. e1006635.
Jin, Y. and Tam, O. H. and Paniagua, E. and Hammell, M. (2015) TEtranscripts: A package for including transposable elements in differential expression analysis of RNA-seq datasets. Bioinformatics, 31(22) pp. 3593-3599.
Rozhkov, N. V. and Hammell, M. and Hannon, G. J. (2013) Multiple roles for Piwi in silencing Drosophila transposons. Genes and Development, 27(4) pp. 400-412.
Li, W. H. and Jin, Y. and Prazak, L. and Hammell, M. and Dubnau, J. (2012) Transposable Elements in TDP-43-Mediated Neurodegenerative Disorders. PLoS ONE, 7(9)
Hammell, M. (2010) Computational methods to identify miRNA targets. Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology, 21(7) pp. 738-44.Additional materials of the author at
CSHL Institutional Repository