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Sara Hägg

Senior researcher

About me

Associate Professor (Docent) in molecular epidemiology at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet.

Elected Chair of the National Junior Faculty (NJF) in Sweden.


  • PhD in Computational Biology, Linköping University, 2009
  • MSc in Molecular Biology, Stockholm University, 2003
  • BSc in Computer Science, Stockholm University, 2003


  • Genetic epidemiology, Medical epidemiology and biostatistics (MEB), KI, 2011-2014
  • Molecular epidemiology, Department of medical sciences, Uppsala University, 2013-2014


  • Stanford University School of Medicine, 2016


Research description

My main research interest is in the field of aging and age-related diseases, applying molecular epidemiological methods. At the moment I am conducting analyses of different biological age predictors (telomere length, epigenetic clock, frailty index, etc) in several twin studies of aging (SATSA, GENDER, HARMONY, OCTO-Twin, TwinGene) within the Swedish Twin Registry and also using UK biobank data. Methods that I use include longitudinal modelling, causal analyses using Mendelian Randomization, and large-scale genome-wide approaches. 

For a more detailed description of my current research please visit my project page Molecular epidemiology studies of aging and age-related diseases.

Visiting faculty

  • Yasutake Tomata, PhD

Associated group members

Doctoral students

  • Yunzhang Wang (Supervisor)
  • Xia Li (Supervisor)
  • Ninoa Malki (Co-supervisor)
  • Anne Seeboth (Co-supervisor, University of Edinburgh)
  • Dianne Phillips (Co-supervisor, University of California, Riverside)

Former group members

Teaching portfolio

I am course organizer of the doctoral course "An introduction to Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology" (1.5 ECT) which is a course within the epidemiology programme where we cover basics in genetics, molecular epidemiology methods and discuss large-scale genetic association studies.


A Frailty Index for UK Biobank Participants
Williams Dm, Jylhävä J, Pedersen Nl, Hägg S
The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences 2019;74(4):582-587

Can markers of biological age predict dependency in old age?
Jylhävä J, Jiang M, Foebel Ad, Pedersen Nl, Hägg S
Biogerontology 2019;():-

Circulating antioxidants and Alzheimer disease prevention: a Mendelian randomization study
Williams Dm, Hägg S, Pedersen Nl
The American journal of clinical nutrition 2019;109(1):90-98

Genome-wide meta-analysis identifies new loci and functional pathways influencing Alzheimer's disease risk
Jansen Ie, Savage Je, Watanabe K, Bryois J, Williams Dm, Steinberg S, et al
Nature genetics 2019;51(3):404-413

Longitudinal changes in the genetic and environmental influences on the epigenetic clocks across old age: Evidence from two twin cohorts
Jylhävä J, Hjelmborg J, Soerensen M, Munoz E, Tan Q, Kuja-halkola R, et al
EBioMedicine 2019;40():710-716

Telomere length and cardiovascular disease risk
Zhan Y, Hägg S
Current opinion in cardiology 2019;34(3):270-274

Tracking the Epigenetic Clock Across the Human Life Course: A Meta-analysis of Longitudinal Cohort Data
Marioni Re, Suderman M, Chen Bh, Horvath S, Bandinelli S, Morris T, et al
The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences 2019;74(1):57-61

A genome-wide association study of IgM antibody against phosphorylcholine: shared genetics and phenotypic relationship to chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Chen X, Gustafsson S, Whitington T, Borné Y, Lorentzen E, Sun J, et al
Human molecular genetics 2018;27(10):1809-1818

Apolipoprotein E DNA methylation and late-life disease
Karlsson Ik, Ploner A, Wang Y, Gatz M, Pedersen Nl, Hägg S
International journal of epidemiology 2018;():-

Association of telomere length with general cognitive trajectories: a meta-analysis of four prospective cohort studies
Zhan Y, Clements Ms, Roberts Ro, Vassilaki M, Druliner Br, Boardman La, et al
Neurobiology of aging 2018;69():111-116

Circulating insulin-like growth factors and Alzheimer disease: A mendelian randomization study
Williams Dm, Karlsson Ik, Pedersen Nl, Hägg S
Neurology 2018;90(4):e291-e297

DNA Methylation and All-Cause Mortality in Middle-Aged and Elderly Danish Twins
Svane Am, Soerensen M, Lund J, Tan Q, Jylhävä J, Wang Y, et al
Genes 2018;9(2):-

Epigenetic influences on aging: a longitudinal genome-wide methylation study in old Swedish twins
Wang Y, Karlsson R, Lampa E, Zhang Q, Hedman Åk, Almgren M, et al
Epigenetics 2018;13(9):975-987

Genetic and Environmental Contributions to the Covariation Between Cardiometabolic Traits
Chen X, Kuja-halkola R, Chang Z, Karlsson R, Hägg S, Svensson P, et al
Journal of the American Heart Association 2018;7(9):-

Genome-wide association meta-analysis in 269,867 individuals identifies new genetic and functional links to intelligence
Savage Je, Jansen Pr, Stringer S, Watanabe K, Bryois J, De Leeuw Ca, et al
Nature genetics 2018;50(7):912-919

GWAS and colocalization analyses implicate carotid intima-media thickness and carotid plaque loci in cardiovascular outcomes
Megastroke Consortium, Franceschini N, Giambartolomei C, De Vries Ps, Finan C, Bis Jc, et al
Nature communications 2018;9(1):5141-

Habitual coffee consumption and cognitive function: a Mendelian randomization meta-analysis in up to 415,530 participants
Zhou A, Taylor Ae, Karhunen V, Zhan Y, Rovio Sp, Lahti J, et al
Scientific reports 2018;8(1):7526-

Implementing a method for studying longitudinal DNA methylation variability in association with age
Wang Y, Pedersen Nl, Hägg S
Epigenetics 2018;13(8):866-874

Leukocyte Telomere Length and All-Cause Mortality: A Between-Within Twin Study With Time-Dependent Effects Using Generalized Survival Models
Zhan Y, Liu Xr, Reynolds Ca, Pedersen Nl, Hägg S, Clements Ms
American journal of epidemiology 2018;187(10):2186-2191

Study of 300,486 individuals identifies 148 independent genetic loci influencing general cognitive function
Davies G, Lam M, Harris Se, Trampush Jw, Luciano M, Hill Wd, et al
Nature communications 2018;9(1):2098-

Telomere Length and All-Cause Mortality: A Meta-analysis
Wang Q, Zhan Y, Pedersen Nl, Fang F, Hägg S
Ageing research reviews 2018;48():11-20

Telomere Length Dynamics and Atherosclerotic Disease
Hägg S
Circulation research 2018;122(4):546-547

Telomere Length Shortening in Alzheimer's Disease: Procedures for a Causal Investigation Using Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms in a Mendelian Randomization Study
Zhan Y, Hägg S
Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) 2018;1750():293-306

An epigenome-wide association study meta-analysis of educational attainment
Karlsson Linnér R, Marioni Re, Rietveld Ca, Simpkin Aj, Davies Nm, Watanabe K, et al
Molecular psychiatry 2017;22(12):1680-1690

Biological Age Predictors
Jylhävä J, Pedersen Nl, Hägg S
EBioMedicine 2017;21():29-36

Exploring the Causal Pathway From Telomere Length to Coronary Heart Disease: A Network Mendelian Randomization Study
Zhan Y, Karlsson Ik, Karlsson R, Tillander A, Reynolds Ca, Pedersen Nl, et al
Circulation research 2017;121(3):214-219

Frailty index as a predictor of all-cause and cause-specific mortality in a Swedish population-based cohort
Jiang M, Foebel Ad, Kuja-halkola R, Karlsson I, Pedersen Nl, Hägg S, et al
Aging 2017;9(12):2629-2646

Genetic susceptibility to cardiovascular disease and risk of dementia
Karlsson Ik, Ploner A, Song C, Gatz M, Pedersen Nl, Hägg S
Translational psychiatry 2017;7(5):e1142-

Positive bias for European men in peer reviewed applications for faculty position at Karolinska Institutet
Holst S, Hägg S
F1000Research 2017;6():2145-

Short telomere length is associated with impaired cognitive performance in European ancestry cohorts
Neurocharge Cognitive Working Group, Hägg S, Zhan Y, Karlsson R, Gerritsen L, Ploner A, et al
Translational psychiatry 2017;7(4):e1100-

Vitamin D and cognitive function: A Mendelian randomisation study
Maddock J, Zhou A, Cavadino A, Kuźma E, Bao Y, Smart Mc, et al
Scientific reports 2017;7(1):13230-

Large-scale non-targeted metabolomic profiling in three human population-based studies
Ganna A, Fall T, Salihovic S, Lee W, Broeckling Cd, Kumar J, et al

Longitudinal decline of leukocyte telomere length in old age and the association with sex and genetic risk
Berglund K, Reynolds Ca, Ploner A, Gerritsen L, Hovatta I, Pedersen Nl, et al
Aging 2016;8(7):1398-415

Adiposity as a cause of cardiovascular disease: a Mendelian randomization study
European Network For Genetic And Genomic Epidemiology Consortium, Hägg S, Fall T, Ploner A, Mägi R, Fischer K, et al
International journal of epidemiology 2015;44(2):578-86

Age- and sex-specific causal effects of adiposity on cardiovascular risk factors
Engage Consortium, Fall T, Hägg S, Ploner A, Mägi R, Fischer K, et al
Diabetes 2015;64(5):1841-52

Discovery and Fine-Mapping of Glycaemic and Obesity-Related Trait Loci Using High-Density Imputation
Engage Consortium, Horikoshi M, Magi R, Van De Bunt M, Surakka I, Sarin Ap, et al
PLOS GENETICS 2015;11(7):e1005230-

Dominant Genetic Variation and Missing Heritability for Human Complex Traits: Insights from Twin versus Genome-wide Common SNP Models
Chen X, Kuja-halkola R, Rahman I, Arpegård J, Viktorin A, Karlsson R, et al
American journal of human genetics 2015;97(5):708-14

Gene-based meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies implicates new loci involved in obesity
Giant Consortium, Hägg S, Ganna A, Van Der Laan Sw, Esko T, Pers Th, et al
Human molecular genetics 2015;24(23):6849-60

Telomere Length Shortening and Alzheimer Disease--A Mendelian Randomization Study
Zhan Y, Song C, Karlsson R, Tillander A, Reynolds Ca, Pedersen Nl, et al
JAMA neurology 2015;72(10):1202-3

The impact of low-frequency and rare variants on lipid levels
Engage Consortium, Surakka I, Horikoshi M, Mägi R, Sarin Ap, Mahajan A, et al
Nature genetics 2015;47(6):589-97

DNA mismatch repair gene MSH6 implicated in determining age at natural menopause
Reprogen Consortium, Kconfab Investigators, Perry Jrb, Hsu Yh, Chasman Di, Johnson Ad, et al

Inactivation of the budding yeast cohesin loader Scc2 alters gene expression both globally and in response to a single DNA double strand break
Lindgren E, Hägg S, Giordano F, Björkegren J, Ström L
Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.) 2014;13(23):3645-58

Leukocyte telomere length associates with prospective mortality independent of immune-related parameters and known genetic markers
Deelen J, Beekman M, Codd V, Trompet S, Broer L, Hägg S, et al
International journal of epidemiology 2014;43(3):878-86

Plasma cholesterol-induced lesion networks activated before regression of early, mature, and advanced atherosclerosis
Björkegren Jl, Hägg S, Talukdar Ha, Foroughi Asl H, Jain Rk, Cedergren C, et al
PLoS genetics 2014;10(2):e1004201-

Serum selenium in relation to measures of glucose metabolism and incidence of Type 2 diabetes in an older Swedish population
Gao H, Hägg S, Sjögren P, Lambert Pc, Ingelsson E, Van Dam Rm
Diabetic medicine : a journal of the British Diabetic Association 2014;31(7):787-93

Telomere length in circulating leukocytes is associated with lung function and disease
Albrecht E, Sillanpaa E, Karrasch S, Alves Ac, Codd V, Hovatta I, et al

Evidence of a Causal Relationship Between Adiponectin Levels and Insulin Sensitivity
Gao H, Fall T, Van Dam Rm, Flyvbjerg A, Zethelius B, Ingelsson E, et al
DIABETES 2013;62(4):1338-44

GWAS of 126,559 Individuals Identifies Genetic Variants Associated with Educational Attainment
Lifelines Cohort Study, Rietveld Ca, Medland Se, Derringer J, Yang J, Esko T, et al
SCIENCE 2013;340(6139):1467-71

Identification of seven loci affecting mean telomere length and their association with disease
Cardiogram Consortium, Codd V, Nelson Cp, Albrecht E, Mangino M, Deelen J, et al
Nature genetics 2013;45(4):422-7

The role of adiposity in cardiometabolic traits: a Mendelian randomization analysis
European Network For Genetic And Genomic Epidemiology (engage) Consortium, Fall T, Hägg S, Mägi R, Ploner A, Fischer K, et al
PLoS medicine 2013;10(6):e1001474-

Variation in genes in the endothelin pathway and endothelium-dependent and endothelium-independent vasodilation in an elderly population
Lind L, Syvänen Ac, Axelsson T, Lundmark P, Hägg S, Larsson A
Acta physiologica (Oxford, England) 2013;208(1):88-94

Relative deprivation and mortality--a longitudinal study in a Swedish population of 4.7 million, 1990-2006
Åberg Yngwe M, Kondo N, Hägg S, Kawachi I
BMC public health 2012;12():664-

Blood levels of dual-specificity phosphatase-1 independently predict risk for post-operative morbidities causing prolonged hospitalization after coronary artery bypass grafting
Hagg S, Alserius T, Noori P, Ruusalepp A, Ivert T, Tegner J, et al

Carotid Plaque Age Is a Feature of Plaque Stability Inversely Related to Levels of Plasma Insulin
Hagg S, Salehpour M, Noori P, Lundstrom J, Possnert G, Takolander R, et al
PLOS ONE 2011;6(4):e18248-

Multi-Organ Expression Profiling Uncovers a Gene Module in Coronary Artery Disease Involving Transendothelial Migration of Leukocytes and LIM Domain Binding 2: The Stockholm Atherosclerosis Gene Expression (STAGE) Study
Hagg S, Skogsberg J, Lundstrom J, Noori P, Nilsson R, Zhong H, et al
PLOS GENETICS 2009;5(12):e1000754-

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