Martin L Olsson

Professor, consultant, Vice Dean for Research Infrastructure, Visiting Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA, Deputy Director of Blodcentralen Skåne/KIT, Region Skåne, Senior Consultant (Överläkare), Blodcentralen Skåne/KIT, Region Skåne, Unit manager (enhetschef), Blood Centres in Malmö, Lund, Landskrona & Trelleborg, Specialist in Tranfusion Medicine (avd.läk./bitr. överläkare), Blodcentralen Skåne, Resident (ST-läkare), Blodcentralen Skåne, Visiting Scientist, International Blood Group Reference Laboratory, Bristol, UK, Internship (AT), Centrallasarettet, Karlskrona, Docent/Reader, Ph.D., M.D.

Research areas and keywords

UKÄ subject classification

  • Hematology


  • Red Blood Cell, Blood Group, Blood Transfusion, Host-Pathogen Interactions, Hemostasis, Genetics


We love blood groups!

My translational research group in the field of Transfusion Medicine investigates the biology of the Red Blood Cell and its surface molecules. Particularly, we study the genetics, structure and function of the polymorphic carbohydrates and proteins we call Blood Groups.

As much as 84% of our own cells are red blood cells (Sender et al. Cell 2016). Lately, this abundant cell has gone from sometimes being viewed as an inert bag full of hemoglobin to becoming seen as a highly active and interactive cell, despite its lack of nucleus. In addition, blood transfusion is a crucial part of modern medicine and every year some 400,000 blood units from Swedish blood donors must end up in the right patient to avoid adverse events caused by blood group incompatibility.

Our diverse team has a strong track record of discovery and characterization of blood groups during the past 25 or so years. This has resulted in DNA-based blood group typing tests now being used in clinical practice worldwide.

Currently, we focus on three main areas
1. Blood group discovery - Our work to elucidate the genetic basis of blood group expression has previously resulted in four new blood group systems (GLOB, VEL, FORS and SID) and revealed the molecular basis underlying numerous blood group antigens. There are still ~40 orphan blood groups, i.e. without a genetic home. Right now, we are pursuing some of those. Part of this project is also to understand the regulatory roles of red blood cell surface molecules during erythropoiesis. This includes the newly-discovered erythroid SMIM1 protein we reported in 2013.

2. Host-pathogen interactions - We have investigated how the red blood cell and its surface molecules interact with virus (e.g. HIV), parasites (e.g. P. falciparum malaria) and bacteria (e.g. S. pyogenes). The current projects focus on yet other pathogens. Here, we also investigate bacterial exoglycosidase enzymes with the ability to convert group A, B or AB cells to type as universal group O.

3. Exploring the emerging role of red blood cell in hemostasis - The past few years, the importance of red blood cells in thrombus formation has become obvious but mechanisms and molecular interactions underlying this role are lacking. We study interactions between the red blood cell and coagulation factors or other cells.

Currently heavily funded by the Swedish Research Council (9 MSEK; 2020-2024), the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (15 MSEK; 2016-2020) and governmental ALF research grants to university healthcare (~10 MSEK; 2019-2022), Mats Paulsson's Foundation (2 MSEK; 2020-2021), as well as other funding bodies, our award-winning research strives to improve compatibility between blood donors and transfusion recipients but also to investigate new roles related to erythropoiesis, infection and clot formation for the red blood cell in health and disease.

Highlighted research outputs

Goel, S., Palmkvist, M., Moll, K., Joannin, N., Lara, P., R Akhouri, R., Moradi, N., Öjemalm, K., Westman, M., Angeletti, D., Kjellin, H., Lehtiö, J., Blixt, O., Ideström, L., Gahmberg, C. G., Storry, J., Hult, A., Olsson, M. L., von Heijne, G., Nilsson, I. & 1 others, Wahlgren, M., 2015, In : Nature Medicine. 21, 4, p. 314-317

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Svensson, L., Annika Hult, Stamps, R., Angstrom, J., Teneberg, S., Jill Storry, Jorgensen, R., Rydberg, L., Henry, S. M. & Martin L Olsson, 2013, In : Blood. 121, 8, p. 1459-1468

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Jill Storry, Magnus Jöud, Christophersen, M. K., Thuresson, B., Bo Åkerström, Sojka, B. N., Björn Nilsson & Martin L Olsson, 2013, In : Nature Genetics. 45, 5, p. 537-U109

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

View all (172)