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Regulators of Blood Cell Formation

Understanding the genetics of blood cell formation

How do inborn genetic variation influences the blood and immune system in humans. What variations in our DNA sequence influence how our blood cells are formed and function? Which ones predispose for blood disorders (for example, leukemia)? 

This Ph.D. project aims to find regulators of blood cell formation using an innovative, population-genetic approach. Unlike traditional studies in vitro or in animal models, we exploit natural genetic variation between individuals to identify genes that regulate blood cell formation in vivo in humans. Instead of inserting artificial mutations in mice, we will read out ripples of the experiments nature has performed during evolution.

Building on unique sample streams, and the latest genomics and genome editing techniques, we will: (a) use large-scale, high-resolution flow cytometry data to find DNA sequence variants and genes that influence blood cell formation; and (b) investigate the functional role of these variants and genes. The project combines stem cell biology and human genomics. It differs from all previous population-genetic studies in the field in that the generated data will allow exploration of how genetic variation influences the formation not only of mature blood cells, but also at the stem- and progenitor cell stages.

The Ph.D. student will participate in a large-scale, collaborative effort (BloodVariome), involving researchers at Lund University and collaborating institutions, primarily deCODE Genetics (Reykjavik, Iceland). He/she will get an opportunity to work in strong research environments with a range of genomics techniques, including genome-wide association studies, next-generation sequencing, advanced flow cytometry, advanced bioinformatics, and CRISPR technology. The project will be supervised by senior researchers at Lund University and deCODE Genetics. The project will illuminate novel regulators of blood cell formation that are relevant in vivo in humans. Potentially, the results could be utilized in several areas in clinical hematology, including treatment of leukemias.

Lund University has one of Europe's strongest research environments for hematology. The environment involves about 250 researchers and students at the Biomedical Center (BMC). The research group is led by Professor Björn Nilsson, comprises about 15 individuals with complementary expertise (clinical, computational, experimental). The primary collaboration partner, deCODE Genetics, is a global leader in human genetics.

Zain Ali

CanFaster PhD student



Professor Björn Nilsson


Phone: +46462220738

Group website

Department of Laboratory Medicine
Division of Hematology and Transfusion Medicine; BMC, C14
Klinikgatan 28, 221 84 Lund