Determinants of donation-related biomarkers

This theme of research aims to identify and characterise genetic, biochemical, lifestyle and other determinants of relevant blood cell traits and measures of iron homeostasis, including determinants of the trajectories of these factors over time among donors. This will further understanding of molecular and health consequences of repeated blood donation. Through analysis of the INTERVAL study data, COMPARE study data, serial follow-up of donors and mechanistic studies, Theme 1 will help identify people who can give blood more and less frequently than is typical. The research will also identify genomic and other factors associated with capacity to give blood which will inform evidence-based strategies to prevent deferral. Thus, results from Theme 1 will help identify genomic and other factors associated with capacity to give blood (Theme 2) and help inform evidence-based strategies to prevent deferral (Theme 3).

Projects currently being undertaken by colleagues at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford:

  • Genome-wide association analysis in the INTERVAL, UK Biobank and BCX Consortium
  • Fine-mapping and integrative epigenetic analyses of haematological traits
  • Extended haematology traits–internal cellular measurements
  • Extended haematology traits–blood smear imaging analytics
  • Molecular mechanisms of haematological trait variation


Theme 1 is led by Professor Nicole Soranzo, Wellcome Sanger Institute.

Nicole Soranzo
Will Astle
Nick Ciccone
Qi Guo
Dirk Paul
Dragana Vuckovic
Parsa Akbari
Lisa Schmunk











Research staff: Dr Will Astle, Dr Nick Ciccone, Dr Qi Guo, Dr Dirk Paul, Dr Dragana Vuckovic

Trainees: Parsa Akbari, Lisa Schmunk



BCX Consortium


Brigham and Women’s Hospital

BTRU in Organ Donation and Transplantation

BTRU in Red Blood Cell Products

BTRU in Stem Cells and Immunotherapies

Dept of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics

Harvard Medical School

NIHR BioResource

NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre


UK Biobank


Donating blood comes at a cost to the donor and NHSBT has the dual responsibility of safeguarding donor health while maintaining blood stocks for the Health Service. Theme 1 will identify and characterise relevant blood cell traits among donors and, by matching these traits to donor health information, the theme intends to determine how often a donor should give blood (more or less frequently that the standard interval). These results will help inform NHSBT policy and procedures.


Sun BB, et al. Genomic atlas of the human plasma proteomeNature. 2018 June 7; 558:73-79.

Di Angelantonio E, et al. Efficiency and safety of varying the frequency of whole blood donation (INTERVAL): a randomised trial of 45 000 donorsLancet. 2017 Nov 25; 390(10110):2360-2371.

Petersen R, et al. Platelet function is modified by common sequence variation in megakaryocyte super enhancersNat Commun. 2017 Jul; 8:16058