The Graham Watts Laboratories for Research into Motor Neuron Disorders


Latest lab. news:


Optical-control of muscle function by transplantation of stem cell-derived motor neurons in mice.

J. Barney Bryson, Carolina Barcellos Machado, Martin Crossley, Danielle Stevenson, Virginie Bros-Facer, Juan Burrone, Linda Greensmith, Ivo Lieberam. Science 344, 94-97 (2014).


Lab Head: Prof Linda Greensmith

Linda Greensmith

The research undertaken in our labs is focused on disorders that affect the neuromuscular system. In particular, our work is aimed at improving our understanding of the mechanisms involved in motor neuron degeneration and dysfunction in motor neuron diseases such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Spinal Bulbar Muscular Atrophy (SBMA). We are also examining the pathological mechanisms underlying forms of peripheral neuropathy such as Charcot Marie Tooth Disease (CMT)/distal Hereditary Motor Neuropathy (dHMN). A key a pathological feature of these disorders is aberrant protein aggregation, and our interest in this pathological mechanism has led us to establish an active research programme investigating Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM), the most common muscle disorder affecting adults over the age of 50. Interestingly, mutations in the gene valosin containing protein (VCP) gene are a cause of both familial ALS as well as a hereditary form of IBM known as Inclusion body myopathy associated with Paget's disease and frontotemporal dementia (IBMPFD), linking IBM with ALS and FTD We use a multidisciplinary approach in our experiments, examining motor neurons and muscle cells in culture (both primary cells and embryonic stem cell-derived) as well as in animal models of neuromuscular disease. We also use a wide range of techniques from cellular and molecular biology to whole animal, in vivo systems physiology. This combination of techniques allows us to examine the molecular and cellular changes that take place in cells in culture under highly controllable conditions, which can help us to identify pathological mechanisms which we can then target with a range of potential therapeutic agents or approaches, before moving on to test the validity of our findings in vivo using appropriate animal models. The overall aim of our research program is to help in the development of effective therapeutic strategies for use in the treatment of these debilitating and often fatal neurodegenerative and neuromuscular disorders.

Click to view our Current projects (ALS; SBMA; CMT/dHMN; IBM)


Watts Lab

The Graham Watts Research Group



Lab Head:

Professor Linda Greensmith BSc. PhD

The Graham Watts Senior Research Fellow 

Tel: 020 3448 4280 

Email: l.greensmith@ucl.ac.uk


Lab Manager:

Mr James Dick BSc.

Tel: 020 3448 4218;

Email:James.Dick@ucl.ac.uk

Jim Dick  



Postdoctoral Research Fellows:

Dr Mhoriam Ahmed PhD; working on IBM: mhoriam.ahmed@ucl.ac.uk

Dr Barney Bryson PhD; working on ALS: barney.bryson@ucl.ac.uk

Dr Bernadett Kalmar BSc. PhD; working on CMT/dHMN and ALS:  b.kalmar@ucl.ac.uk

Dr Ching-Hua Lu MD; PhD; working on ALS: c.lu@qmul.ac.uk (Co-supervised with Dr Andrea Malaspina, QMUL)

Dr Bilal Malik BSc. MSc. PhD; working on SBMA: b.malik@ucl.ac.uk 



Postgraduate Students (PhD):

Anna Gray; working on SBMA: a.gray@ucl.ac.uk

Katherine Gibbs; (co-supervised with Prof. G Schiavo): working on ALS:

katherine.gibbs. 11@ucl.ac.uk

Leonette Annan; leonette.annan.11@ucl.ac.uk working on SBMA



Clinical Fellows:

Dr Helen Devine; working on SBMA: h.devine@ucl.ac.uk

Dr Maiya Kugathasan; co-supervised with Prof M Reilly; working on CMT u.kugathasan@ucl.ac.uk



Current Research Funding

o The Brain Research Trust - The Graham Watts Bequest

o The Welcome Trust

o The Medical Research Council

o BBSRC

o The European Community (FP7)

o Motor Neuron Disease Association

o Thierry Latran Foundation

o Kennedy’s Disease Research Donation

o UCL Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre Neuroscience Programme

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