UCL Institute of Neurology


Experimental Neuroinflammation Group

Head of Group: Prof. Kenneth Smith

Email: k.smith@ucl.ac.uk  Tel: 020 7679 4013

Primary Research Focus

Our primary research focus is multiple sclerosis (MS), an inflammatory demyelinating disease of the brain and spinal cord.  MS affects people in early adulthood and although the disease course is very variable, it can progress over decades to cause a range of serious neurological deficits including blindness, paralysis and numbness.  The disease is characterized by neuroinflammation, demyelination, and neuronal and axonal degeneration, and each type of pathology causes loss of function by different mechanisms.

Cause of MS

The cause of MS, and how the disease causes each type of pathology, is unknown.  Immune mechanisms are clearly important, but the role played by autoimmunity remains uncertain.  Our research explores the causes and consequences of each type of pathology, with an emphasis on identifying novel therapeutic strategies.  Our findings are relevant to the different neurological disorders in which neuroinflammation plays an important role, which includes the range of neurodegenerative disorders.


Our laboratory focuses on innate immune mechanisms, especially the many roles of microglia in neuroinflammatory processes, and the consequences of their actions.  We have a particular interest in energy metabolism, and the belief that inflamed neural tissue suffers an energy deficit.  Our interest in energy means that we study mitochondrial biology, tissue oxygenation, and the vascular supply, as well as the more conventional electrophysiological and pathological properties of the tissue, giving us a relatively complete ‘picture’ of the influences within an inflammatory lesion and their consequences.  We believe that an energy deficit contributes directly to three of the cardinal features of MS, namely loss of function, demyelination and degeneration. 

Our research in this area has been grouped under the headings of "Hypoxia", "Mitochondria" and "Experimental Models".

We are also members of the: