• About
Karolinska institutet
Karolinska universitetssjukhuset

Ola Nilsson Group


The skeleton provides support and protection to soft tissues and internal organs. It is crucial to our ability to move and it is also the body’s mineral storage and host for hematopoesis. Skeletal diseases comprise a varied group of disorders that affects the formation, growth, mineralization, and/or remodeling of the skeleton. In our research, we explore the cellular and molecular mechanisms of growth and skeletal disorders, and this knowledge is then applied to improve diagnosis and medical treatments of skeletal disorders as there for most of these diseases, are no or only imperfect treatments available.

Longitudinal bone growth occurs at the growth plate by a process called endochondral ossification in which cartilage is first formed and then remodeled into bone tissue.  The growth plate is a layer of cartilage found near the ends of long bones, between the epiphysis and the metaphysis. The growth plate consists of three histologically and functionally discrete layers: 1) the resting zone. We previously demonstrated that the resting zone contains stem-like cells (unipotent stem cells, equivalent to stem cells in the skin and the intestines) which renew the pool of proliferative cells, 2) the proliferative zone, where chondrocytes actively proliferate and line up in columns, thereby directing growth primarily in one dimension, and 3) the hypertrophic zone, where the terminally differentiated chondrocytes calcify their matrix and attracts the invading bone and endothelial cells, a crucial step in endochondral bone formation.


Our research in translational growth and skeletal disorders combine unique and well-characterized patient cohorts, advanced genetic and bioinformatic methods with genetic targeting in mice, cellular model systems and molecular biology methods. This research investigates the underlying molecular causes responsible for childhood growth and skeletal disorders. Ultimately, based on our data, we select specific genes or molecular mechanism that could be suitable targets for novel treatment strategies that will be tested in animals.

This research has immediate benefit for the patients suffering from genetic growth disorders as it will identify the underlying genetic diagnosis, thus enabling more accurate information about the cause, mode of inheritance, and prospects of improving their medical care. Understanding skeletal development, physiology, and pathology would offer novel treatment strategies for growth and skeletal diseases. It is highly important for several other large patient groups including children with inflammatory diseases and children treated for cancer who often develop growth problems.

Group Leader

Ola Nilsson, Professor/senior physician, ola.nilsson@ki.se

Group members

Lars Ottosson, PhD, Lab manager, lars.ottosson@ki.se

Ameya Bendre, PhD, Postdoc, ameya.bendre@ki.se

Marta Baroncelli, PhD, Posdoc, marta.baroncelli@ki.se

Alexandra Gkourogianni, MD, PhD, Post Doc, alexandra.gkourogianni@ki.se

Zelong Dou, PhD student, zelong.dou@ki.se

Sigrun Hallgrimsdottir, MD, PhD student, sigrun.hallgrimsdottir@ki.se

Ola Kvist, MD, PhD Student, ola.kvist@ki.se

Otto Lennartsson, MD, PhD Student

Selected publications

Expanding the mutation and phenotype spectrum of MYH3-related skeletal disorders. Zhang Y, Zhao S, Hallgrimsdottir S, Zuo Y, Li X, Liu S, Lindelöf H, Wang S, Hammarsjö A, Batkovskyte D, Ye Y, Wang L, Yan Z, Lin J, Yu C, Chen z, Niu Y, Wang H, Zhao Z, Liu P, Qiu G, Posey JE, Wu Z, Lupski JR, Micule I, Anderlid BM, Voss U, Sulander D, Kuchinskaya E, Nilsson O, Zhang TJ, Grigelioniene G, Wu N. NPJ Genom Med. 2022 Feb 15;7(1):11. PMID: 35169139

Bilateral epiphysiodesis due to extreme tall stature in a girl with a de novo DNMT3A variant associated with Tatton-Brown-Rahman syndrome. Lennartson O, Lodefalk M, Wethje H, Stattin EL, Sävendahl L, Nilsson O. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2021 Oct 13;12:752756. PMID: 34721301.

Rat perichondrium transplanted to articular cartilage defects forms articular-like, hyaline cartilage. Dou Z, Muder D, Baroncelli M, Bendre A, Gkourogianni A, Ottosson L, Vedung T, Nilsson O. Bone. 2021 Jun 8;151:116035. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2021.116035. PMID: 34111644

Optimized protocols for in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry, and immunofluorescence on skeletal tissue. Dou Z, Chau M, Muder D, Vedung T, Nilsson O. Acta Histochem 2021 Jun 30;123(5):151747. PMID: 34217048

Pre and postnatal growth failure with microcephaly due to two novel heterozygous IGF1R mutations and response to growth hormone treatment. Gkourogianni A, Andrade AC, Segerlund E, Werner-Sperker A, Jonsson BA, Horemuzova E, Dahlgren J, Burstedt M, Nilsson O. Acta Paediatr. 2020 Oct;109(10):2067-2074. PMID: 32037650.

Aggrecanopathies highlight the need for genetic evaluation of selected ISS children: Commentary on “High frequency of pathogenic ACAN variants including an intragenic deletion in selected individuals with short stature.” Invited commentary. Nilsson O. Eur J Endocrinol. 2020Aug;183(2):C9-C10. PMID: 32413843

Burosumab vs. continuation of conventional therapy in children with X-linked hypo-phosphatemia: a randomised, active-controlled, open-label, phase 3 trial. Imel EA, Glorieux FH, Whyte MP, Munns CF, Ward L, Nilsson O, Simmons JH, Padidela R, Namba N, Cheong HI, Pitukcheewanont P, Sochett E, Högler W, Muroya K, Tanaka H, Gottesman GS, Biggin A, Perwad F, Mao M, Chen CY, Skrinar A, San Martin J, Portale AA. Lancet. 2019 Jun 15;393(10189):2416-2427. PMID: 31104833.

New developments in the genetic diagnosis of short stature. Jee YH, Baron J, Nilsson O. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2018 Aug;30(4):541-547. PMID: 29787394

Ezh2 mutations found in the Weaver overgrowth syndrome cause a partial loss of H3K27 histone methyltransferase activity. Lui JC, Barnes KM, Dong L, Yue S, Graber E, Rapaport R, Dauber A, Nilsson O, Baron J. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2018 Apr 1;103(4):1470-1478.  PMID: 29244146.

Clinical characterization of patients with autosomal dominant short stature due to aggrecan mutations. Gkourogiannin A, Andrew M, Tyzinski L, Crocker M, Douglas J, Dunbar N, Fairchild J, Funari MF, Heath KE, Jorge AA, Kurtzman T, LaFranchi S, Lalani S, Lebl J, Lin Y, Los E, Newbern D, Nowak C, Olson M, Popovic J, Průhová Š, Elblova L, Quintos JB, Segerlund E, Sentchordi L, Shinawi M, Stattin EL, Swartz J, Ariadna GA, Sinhué DC, Hosono H, Sanchez-Lara PA, Hwa V, Baron J, Nilsson O#, Dauber A#. #Contributed equally. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Feb 1;102(2):460-469.  PMID: 27870580.

Histone methyltransferases EZH1 and 2 promote skeletal growth by repressing inhibitors of chondrocyte proliferation and hypertrophy.  Lui JC, Garrison P, Nguyen Q, Ad M, Keembiyehetty C, Chen W, Jee YH, Landman E, Nilsson O, Barnes KM, Baron J. Nature Commun. 2016 Nov 29;7:13685. PMID: 27897169.

Short and tall stature: a new paradigm emerges. Baron J, Sävendahl L, De Luca F, Dauber A, Phillip M, Wit JM, Nilsson O. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2015 Dec;11(12):735-46. PMID: 26437621

Short stature, accelerated bone maturation, and early growth cessation due to heterozygous aggrecan mutations.  Nilsson O#, Guo MH#, Dunbar N, Popovic J, Flynn D, Jacobsen C, Lui JC, Hirschhorn JN, Baron J, Dauber A. #Contributed equally. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Aug;99(8):E1510-8. PMID: 24762113.

Synthesizing genome-wide association studies and expression microarray reveals novel genes that act in the human growth plate to modulate height. Lui JC, Nilsson O, Chan Y, Palmer CD, Andrade AC, Hirschhorn JN, Baron J. Hum Mol Genet. 2012 Dec 1;21(23):5193-5201. PMID: 22914739.

Spatial and Temporal Regulation of Gene Expression in the Mammalian Growth Plate.  Julian C. K. Lui, Anenisia C. Andrade, Anita Hegde, WeiPing Chen, Jeffrey Baron, Ola Nilsson. Bone. 2010 May;46(5):1380-90.

About CMM

The Center for Molecular Medicine (CMM) is a foundation instituted by the Stockholm County Council (Region Stockholm). CMM is at the heart of a close partnership with the Karolinska University Hospital and Karolinska Institutet, fueling advancements in biomedical and clinical research.


Center for Molecular Medicine Foundation, org. nr. 815201-3689

Karolinska University Hospital L8:05

Visionsgatan 18

171 76 Stockholm, Sweden


Karolinska institutet
Karolinska universitetssjukhuset