Robert L. Hanson, M.D., M.P.H.

Senior Investigator

Diabetes Genetic Epidemiology Section, Phoenix Epidemiology & Clinical Research Branch


Building PECRB, Room 606
1550 E Indian School Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85014

+1 602 200 5207

Research Topics

The ultimate goal of this research is to understand the causes of diabetes, obesity, and diabetic complications and to understand the molecular processes that lead to these diseases.

Current Research

The Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch conducts research on the causes and correlates of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and diabetic complications. My research has focused on the epidemiology of these diseases, particularly on genetic and molecular aspects, in American Indian and other populations. Genetic and non-genetic risk factors for diabetes, obesity, and complications of diabetes are being studied using classical techniques of epidemiology. The potential genetic causes of these diseases are also studied using the techniques of genetic epidemiology, including studies of variants in DNA in families and in populations. Studies of epigenetics, gene transcription, protein expression, and cellular metabolism are also being pursued. The branch is studying the effect of lifestyle interventions to promote weight loss on prevention of diabetes and its complications.

Applying our Research

Some of the branch’s research consists of clinical trials that have direct clinical applications. The genomic and molecular research does not have an immediate clinical application, but through this research we hope to gain an understanding of the processes that lead to diabetes and related conditions. Ultimately, we hope that this knowledge will lead to better treatments and preventive strategies for these diseases.

Need for Further Study

The technology for studying the genetic and molecular aspects of diabetes is continuing to improve. The greatest challenges are to develop analytical methods that allow scientists to interpret the results from these technical advances and to ensure that diverse populations are included in genomic and molecular research.


  • Fellow, Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch, NIDDK, 1991–1993
  • Resident, Preventive Medicine, State University of New York-Stony Brook, 1989–1991
  • Resident, State University of New York-Stony Brook, 1986–1989
  • M.P.H., Columbia University, 1991
  • M.D., University of Kansas, 1986

Selected Publications

  1. Wedekind LE, Mahajan A, Hsueh WC, Chen P, Olaiya MT, Kobes S, Sinha M, Baier LJ, Knowler WC, McCarthy MI, Hanson RL. The utility of a type 2 diabetes polygenic score in addition to clinical variables for prediction of type 2 diabetes incidence in birth, youth and adult cohorts in an Indigenous study population. Diabetologia. 2023;66(5):847-860.
  2. Hanson RL, Safabakhsh S, Curtis JM, Hsueh WC, Jones LI, Aflague TF, Duenas Sarmiento J, Kumar S, Blackburn NB, Curran JE, Mahkee D, Baier LJ, Knowler WC, Nelson RG. Association of CREBRF variants with obesity and diabetes in Pacific Islanders from Guam and Saipan. Diabetologia. 2019;62(9):1647-1652.
  3. Hanson RL, Van Hout CV, Hsueh WC, Shuldiner AR, Kobes S, Sinha M, Baier LJ, Regeneron Genetics Center, Knowler WC. Assessment of the potential role of natural selection in type 2 diabetes and related traits across human continental ancestry groups: comparison of phenotypic with genotypic divergence. Diabetologia. 2020;63(12):2616-2627.
  4. Hsueh WC, Nair AK, Kobes S, Chen P, Göring HHH, Pollin TI, Malhotra A, Knowler WC, Baier LJ, Hanson RL. Identity-by-Descent Mapping Identifies Major Locus for Serum Triglycerides in Amerindians Largely Explained by an APOC3 Founder Mutation. Circ Cardiovasc Genet. 2017;10(6).
  5. Hsueh WC, Bennett PH, Esparza-Romero J, Urquidez-Romero R, Valencia ME, Ravussin E, Williams RC, Knowler WC, Baier LJ, Schulz LO, Hanson RL. Analysis of type 2 diabetes and obesity genetic variants in Mexican Pima Indians: Marked allelic differentiation among Amerindians at HLA. Ann Hum Genet. 2018;82(5):287-299.

Related Scientific Focus Areas

This page was last updated on Wednesday, May 1, 2024