Professor Alastair Compston

Alastair Compston

University position

Professor and Head of Department of Clinical Neurosciences

Professor Alastair Compston is pleased to consider applications from prospective PhD students.


Department of Clinical Neurosciences


Neurology Unit


Home page

Research Themes

Clinical and Veterinary Neuroscience

Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


My research interests focus on clinical and experimental demyelinating disease with an emphasis on multiple sclerosis - the commonest potentially disabling disease of young adults. The research group has a broad set of interests: we work on the aetiology with international collaborations in genetics involving large-scale whole genome screens for factors that confer susceptibility and influence disease progression; in neurobiology, we study interactions between glia and axons, and the potential role of human stem cells as 'medicines' for limiting and the repairing the damage; our work in therapeutic immunology has used the monoclonal antibody Campath-1H (Alemtuzimab) both to treat patients and to understand mechanisms of tissue injury that determine the clinical course of the disease.

Genetic associations implicate T cell driven immune pathways in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis
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Research Focus


multiple sclerosis


stem cells



Clinical conditions

Multiple sclerosis


Cell culture

Cellular immunology

Cross-sectional and cohort studies

Electrophysiological recording techniques


Fluorescence microscopy



Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Randomised control trials



James Fawcett

Robin Franklin

Maria Spillantini

United Kingdom

Siddharthan Chandran Web:

David Miller Web:

Alan Thompson Web:


David Hafler Web:

Jonathan Haines Web:

Stephen Hauser Web:

Jorge Oksenberg Web:

Peggy Pericak-Vance Web:

Graeme Stewart Web:

Key publications

Jones JL, Phuah CL, Cox AL, Thompson SA, Ban M, Shawcross J, Walton A, Sawcer SJ, Compston A, Coles AJ (2009), “IL-21 drives secondary autoimmunity in patients with multiple sclerosis, following therapeutic lymphocyte depletion with alemtuzumab (Campath-1H).” J Clin Invest 119(7):2052-61 Details

CAMMS223 Trial Investigators, Coles AJ, Compston DA, Selmaj KW, Lake SL, Moran S, Margolin DH, Norris K, Tandon PK (2008), “Alemtuzumab vs. interferon beta-1a in early multiple sclerosis.” N Engl J Med 359(17):1786-801 Details

International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium, Hafler DA, Compston A, Sawcer S, Lander ES, Daly MJ, De Jager PL, de Bakker PI, Gabriel SB, Mirel DB, Ivinson AJ, Pericak-Vance MA, Gregory SG, Rioux JD, McCauley JL, Haines JL, Barcellos LF, Cree B, Oksenberg JR, Hauser SL (2007), “Risk alleles for multiple sclerosis identified by a genomewide study.” N Engl J Med 357(9):851-62 Details



Connick P, Kolappan M, Crawley C, Webber DJ, Patani R, Michell AW, Du MQ, Luan SL, Altmann DR, Thompson AJ, Compston A, Scott MA, Miller DH, Chandran S (2012), “Autologous mesenchymal stem cells for the treatment of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis: an open-label phase 2a proof-of-concept study.” Lancet Neurol 11(2):150-6 Details


International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium, Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium 2, Sawcer S, Hellenthal G, Pirinen M, Spencer CC, Patsopoulos NA, Moutsianas L, Dilthey A, Su Z, Freeman C, Hunt SE, Edkins S, Gray E, Booth DR, Potter SC, Goris A, Band G, Oturai AB, Strange A, Saarela J, Bellenguez C, Fontaine B, Gillman M, Hemmer B, Gwilliam R, Zipp F, Jayakumar A, Martin R, Leslie S, Hawkins S, Giannoulatou E, D'alfonso S, Blackburn H, Boneschi FM, Liddle J, Harbo HF, Perez ML, Spurkland A, Waller MJ, Mycko MP, Ricketts M, Comabella M, Hammond N, Kockum I, McCann OT, Ban M, Whittaker P, Kemppinen A, Weston P, Hawkins C, Widaa S, Zajicek J, Dronov S, Robertson N, Bumpstead SJ, Barcellos LF, Ravindrarajah R, Abraham R, Alfredsson L, Ardlie K, Aubin C, Baker A, Baker K, Baranzini SE, Bergamaschi L, Bergamaschi R, Bernstein A, Berthele A, Boggild M, Bradfield JP, Brassat D, Broadley SA, Buck D, Butzkueven H, Capra R, Carroll WM, Cavalla P, Celius EG, Cepok S, Chiavacci R, Clerget-Darpoux F, Clysters (2011), “Genetic risk and a primary role for cell-mediated immune mechanisms in multiple sclerosis.” Nature 476(7359):214-9 Details

Patani R, Hollins AJ, Wishart TM, Puddifoot CA, Alvarez S, de Lera AR, Wyllie DJ, Compston DA, Pedersen RA, Gillingwater TH, Hardingham GE, Allen ND, Chandran S (2011), “Retinoid-independent motor neurogenesis from human embryonic stem cells reveals a medial columnar ground state.” Nat Commun 2:214 Details


Jones JL, Anderson JM, Phuah CL, Fox EJ, Selmaj K, Margolin D, Lake SL, Palmer J, Thompson SJ, Wilkins A, Webber DJ, Compston DA, Coles AJ (2010), “Improvement in disability after alemtuzumab treatment of multiple sclerosis is associated with neuroprotective autoimmunity.” Brain 133(Pt 8):2232-47 Details

Somerfield J, Hill-Cawthorne GA, Lin A, Zandi MS, McCarthy C, Jones JL, Willcox M, Shaw D, Thompson SA, Compston AS, Hale G, Waldmann H, Coles AJ (2010), “A novel strategy to reduce the immunogenicity of biological therapies.” J Immunol 185(1):763-8 Details


De Jager PL, Jia X, Wang J, de Bakker PI, Ottoboni L, Aggarwal NT, Piccio L, Raychaudhuri S, Tran D, Aubin C, Briskin R, Romano S, International MS Genetics Consortium, Baranzini SE, McCauley JL, Pericak-Vance MA, Haines JL, Gibson RA, Naeglin Y, Uitdehaag B, Matthews PM, Kappos L, Polman C, McArdle WL, Strachan DP, Evans D, Cross AH, Daly MJ, Compston A, Sawcer SJ, Weiner HL, Hauser SL, Hafler DA, Oksenberg JR (2009), “Meta-analysis of genome scans and replication identify CD6, IRF8 and TNFRSF1A as new multiple sclerosis susceptibility loci.” Nat Genet 41(7):776-82 Details


Anderson JM, Hampton DW, Patani R, Pryce G, Crowther RA, Reynolds R, Franklin RJ, Giovannoni G, Compston DA, Baker D, Spillantini MG, Chandran S (2008), “Abnormally phosphorylated tau is associated with neuronal and axonal loss in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis and multiple sclerosis.” Brain 131(Pt 7):1736-48 Details


Gregory SG, Schmidt S, Seth P, Oksenberg JR, Hart J, Prokop A, Caillier SJ, Ban M, Goris A, Barcellos LF, Lincoln R, McCauley JL, Sawcer SJ, Compston DA, Dubois B, Hauser SL, Garcia-Blanco MA, Pericak-Vance MA, Haines JL, Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Group (2007), “Interleukin 7 receptor alpha chain (IL7R) shows allelic and functional association with multiple sclerosis.” Nat Genet 39(9):1083-91 Details