Hong Qian group

Mesenchymal stem cells have become one of the most promising cell types in regenerative medicine. However, their exact cellular identity and in vivo functions remain poorly understood due to the fact that much of our current understanding of stromal precursor cells has been based on in vitro cultured cells whose characteristics may differ from their primary counterparts.

Our research program is focusing on identification and characterization of native mesenchymal stem and progenitor cells from bone marrow and other sources by using multi-color flow cytometry, transgenic mouse models as well as human materials.

We are aiming to identify in vivo activities of mesenchymal stem cells in bone marrow under physiological conditions such as normal hematopoiesis and under diseases including hematological disorders.

The potential findings from this research program may help to understand cellular mechanisms underlying regulation of hematopoiesis and to develop better stem cell-based therapeutic strategies in regenerative medicine.

Keywords: Mesenchymal stem cells, bone marrow, flow cytometry, transgenic mouse models, cell-cell interactions, hematopoiesis


Hong Qian, Group Leader. Dr.

Hong Qian was recruited to Karolinska Institutet as an assistant professor in 2011. She received a Ph.D. degree in Stem Cell Biology from Lund University, Sweden (2007) and did a postdoc at Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Linköping University, Sweden (2008-2011). 

Phone: +46-8-585 83623

Anne-Sofie Johansson, Senior lab manager

Lakshmi Sandhow, PhD student

Makoto Kondo, Postdoc

Makoto Kondo is a Toyobo Biotechnology Foundation postdoctoral fellow. He has received D.Sc. degree from Waseda University, Japan (2013) in basic and translational research of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Monika Dolinska, PhD student

She graduated as a Master of Science in Medical Biotechnology from University of Warsaw, Poland. She joined Dr. Hong Qian's Group in April 2014.

Pingnan Xiao, PhD student

She received her master degree in Clinical Medicine from Southern Medical University of China. She started her PhD training at Karolinska Institutet since 2012. 

Phone: +46 (08)-58583623.

Thibault Bouderlique, Postdoc


1. Identification of the developmental hierarchy of mesenchymal cells in bone marrow

Unlike hematopoietic cells, the developmental hierarchy of mesenchymal cells has not been clearly defined. Understanding of this would provide important basis for further studying the physiological and pathological roles of different mesenchymal cell subsets. The aim of this project is to dissect mesenchymal cell compartment from bone marrow.

2. In vivo roles of mesenchymal stem and progenitor cells in normal hematopoiesis and leukemia

Normal hematopoietic cell development is tightly regulated by bone marrow stromal cells through production of soluble factors, matrix proteins and intracellular signals initiated by cell-cell adhesive interactions. The bone marrow stromal cells encompass endothelial cells, osteoblasts, adipocytes and chondrocytes and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), a rare cell population which can differentiate into osteoblasts, chondrocytes and adipocytes. It has been recently shown that mesenchymal stem and progenitor cells are required for maintenance of hematopoiesis in mouse bone marrow in vivo (Mendez-Ferrer et al., 2010). However, the exact in vivo roles of mesenchymal stem and progenitor cells in development of hematopoietic cells remain poorly defined. In addition, there is emerging evidence that bone marrow mesenchymal progenitor cells may contribute to development of hematopoietic malignancies (Abe; Corre et al., 2007; de Vasconcellos et al., 2010; Mailloux et al., 2010; Raaijmakers et al., 2010). The aim of this project is to study the roles of mesenchymal stem and progenitor cells in the development of normal hematopoiesis and leukemia.

3. Homing and mobilization of MSCs

Sufficient homing is a prerequisite for successful therapeutic application of any type of infused cells. MSCs hold therapeutic potentials for the repair of damaged organs and treatment of inflammation due to their multipotency and immunosuppressive properties. Inefficient homing into the damaged tissues and massive entrapment of the cells has been a major obstacle for their therapeutic use in regenerative medicine. Any improvement of therapeutic outcome will depend on a better understanding of homing mechanisms of systematically infused MSCs. The aim of the project is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying homing of primary mesenchymal stem and progenitor cells to specific organs.

Financial support

  • Wallenberg Institutet for Regenerative Medicine (WIRM)

  • Karolinska Institutet Research foundation (KI fonder)

  • The Swedish Cancer Society (Cancerfonden)

  • The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet)

  • The Swedish Childhood Cancer Society (Barncancerfonden)

  • Radiumhemmets Forskningsfonder (The Cancer Research Foundations of Radiumhemmet)

  • Felix Mindus bidrag till leukemiforskningen

  • Dr. Åke Olsson foundation for hematological research

Selected publications

A novel Lin-CD34+CD38- integrin α2- bipotential megakaryocyte-erythrocyte progenitor population in the human bone marrow.
Wong W, Dolinska M, Sigvardsson M, Ekblom M, Qian H
Leukemia 2016 Jun;30(6):1399-402

Amniotic fluid - a source for clinical therapeutics in the newborn?
Ekblad , Qian H, Westgren M, Le Blanc K, Fossum M, Götherström C
Stem Cells Dev. 2015 Jun;24(12):1405-14

Yan HJ,  Oommen OP,  Yu D,  Hilborn J,  Qian H,  Varghese OP.
Chondroitin Sulfate-Coated DNA-Nanoplexes Enhance Transfection Efficiency by Controlling Plasmid Release from Endosomes: A New Insight into Modulating Nonviral Gene Transfection.

Immune challenge by intraperitoneal administration of lipopolysaccharide directs gene expression in distinct blood-brain barrier cells toward enhanced prostaglandin E(2) signaling.
Vasilache A, Qian H, Blomqvist A
Brain Behav. Immun. 2015 Aug;48():31-41

Early B-cell factor 1 regulates the expansion of B-cell progenitors in a dose-dependent manner.
Åhsberg J, Ungerbäck J, Strid T, Welinder E, Stjernberg J, Larsson M, et al
J. Biol. Chem. 2013 Nov;288(46):33449-61

Expression of integrin α2 receptor in human cord blood CD34+CD38-CD90+ stem cells engrafting long-term in NOD/SCID-IL2Rγ(c) null mice.
Wong W, Sigvardsson M, Åstrand-Grundström I, Hogge D, Larsson J, Qian H, et al
Stem Cells 2013 Feb;31(2):360-71

Molecular characterization of prospectively isolated multipotent mesenchymal progenitors provides new insight into the cellular identity of mesenchymal stem cells in mouse bone marrow.
Qian H, Badaloni A, Chiara F, Stjernberg J, Polisetti N, Nihlberg K, et al
Mol. Cell. Biol. 2013 Feb;33(4):661-77

Lipopolysaccharide-induced fever depends on prostaglandin E2 production specifically in brain endothelial cells.
Engström L, Ruud J, Eskilsson A, Larsson A, Mackerlova L, Kugelberg U, et al
Endocrinology 2012 Oct;153(10):4849-61

Primary mesenchymal stem and progenitor cells from bone marrow lack expression of CD44 protein.
Qian H, Le Blanc K, Sigvardsson M
J. Biol. Chem. 2012 Jul;287(31):25795-807

Single-cell analysis of early B-lymphocyte development suggests independent regulation of lineage specification and commitment in vivo.
Zandi S, Ahsberg J, Tsapogas P, Stjernberg J, Qian H, Sigvardsson M
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2012 Sep;109(39):15871-6

IL-7 mediates Ebf-1-dependent lineage restriction in early lymphoid progenitors.
Tsapogas P, Zandi S, Åhsberg J, Zetterblad J, Welinder E, Jönsson J, et al
Blood 2011 Aug;118(5):1283-90

Genomics based analysis of interactions between developing B-lymphocytes and stromal cells reveal complex interactions and two-way communication.
Zetterblad J, Qian H, Zandi S, Månsson R, Lagergren A, Hansson F, et al
BMC Genomics 2010 Feb;11():108

Interleukin-7-induced Stat-5 acts in synergy with Flt-3 signaling to stimulate expansion of hematopoietic progenitor cells.
Åhsberg J, Tsapogas P, Qian H, Zetterblad J, Zandi S, Månsson R, et al
J. Biol. Chem. 2010 Nov;285(47):36275-84

Stabilins are expressed in bone marrow sinusoidal endothelial cells and mediate scavenging and cell adhesive functions.
Qian H, Johansson S, McCourt P, Smedsrød B, Ekblom M, Johansson S
Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 2009 Dec;390(3):883-6

Kit regulates maintenance of quiescent hematopoietic stem cells.
Thorén L, Liuba K, Bryder D, Nygren J, Jensen C, Qian H, et al
J. Immunol. 2008 Feb;180(4):2045-53

Critical role of thrombopoietin in maintaining adult quiescent hematopoietic stem cells.
Qian H, Buza-Vidas N, Hyland C, Jensen C, Antonchuk J, Månsson R, et al
Cell Stem Cell 2007 Dec;1(6):671-84

Distinct roles of integrins alpha6 and alpha4 in homing of fetal liver hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells.
Qian H, Georges-Labouesse E, Nyström A, Domogatskaya A, Tryggvason K, Jacobsen S, et al
Blood 2007 Oct;110(7):2399-407

Molecular evidence for hierarchical transcriptional lineage priming in fetal and adult stem cells and multipotent progenitors.
Månsson R, Hultquist A, Luc S, Yang L, Anderson K, Kharazi S, et al
Immunity 2007 Apr;26(4):407-19

Contribution of alpha6 integrins to hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell homing to bone marrow and collaboration with alpha4 integrins.
Qian H, Tryggvason K, Jacobsen S, Ekblom M
Blood 2006 May;107(9):3503-10

Cytokines regulate postnatal hematopoietic stem cell expansion: opposing roles of thrombopoietin and LNK.
Buza-Vidas N, Antonchuk J, Qian H, Månsson R, Luc S, Zandi S, et al
Genes Dev. 2006 Aug;20(15):2018-23

Open positions

We always want to get in touch with talented potential co-workers. If you are interested in doing research within our group, as a degree project or as a researcher, please contact the group leader Hong Qian.

HematologyRegenerative Medicine