Dr Colin Watts

Colin Watts

University position

Clinician Scientist & Hon Consultant Neurosurgeon

Dr Colin Watts is pleased to consider applications from prospective PhD students.


Department of Clinical Neurosciences


Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair and Neurosurgery Unit



Home page


Research Themes

Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Clinical and Veterinary Neuroscience


Lab-based research is focused on the genomics of glioblastoma (GBM) and in the role of glial progenitors in their evolution and development. We are also interested in developing patient-specific models of GBM to evaluate intra-tumour variability in genomic and clonal architecture. We have established protocols to generate tumour cell lines from individual patients with high efficiency and used them to evaluate tumour growth, treatment response and the emergence of disease resistance using in-vitro and in-vivo models.

In the operating room we have developed FGMS (Fluorescence-Guided Multiple Sampling) as a unique means of interrogating GBM in real time during surgery. We have coupled this with integrated genomic analysis to establish high-resolution molecular genetic characterisation of GBM, enable phylogenetic reconstruction and define clonal organisation of tumours at the level of the individual patient. see also http://www.cancer.cam.ac.uk/directory/profile.php?cw209

neurons, astrocytes and oligodedrocytes from adult stem cells
Neurons, astrocytes and oligodedrocytes from adult stem cells
Click image to view full-size

Research Focus



stem cells




Clinical conditions

Brain tumours




Huntington's disease

Movement disorders

Parkinson's disease

Traumatic brain injury


Cell culture

Cell transplantation & experimental neurosurgery

Confocal microscopy

Fluorescence microscopy

Gene profiling


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)





Peter Collins

Pentao Liu

Oren Scherman

Simon Tavaré

Ashok Venkitaraman

Mark Welland

United Kingdom

Anthony Chalmers Web: http://www.gla.ac.uk/researc...

Mel Greaves Web: http://Mel.Greaves@icr.ac.uk

Karen Kirkby Web: http://www.ati.surrey.ac.uk/profile...


Christina Curtis Web: http://cancersysbio.usc.edu/index.html

Jackie Trotter Web: http://www.ftn.uni-mainz.de/wp-cont...

Associated News Items

Key publications

Joannides AJ, Webber DJ, Raineteau O, Kelly C, Irvine KA, Watts C, Rosser AE, Kemp PJ, Blakemore WF, Compston A, Caldwell MA, Allen ND, Chandran S (2007), “Environmental signals regulate lineage choice and temporal maturation of neural stem cells from human embryonic stem cells” Brain 130(5):1263-75 Details

Ozen I, Galichet C, Watts C, Parras C, Guillemot F, Raineteau O (2007), “Proliferating neuronal progenitors in the postnatal hippocampus transiently express the proneural gene Ngn2” Eur J Neurosci 25(9):2591-2603 Details

Watts C, McConkey H, Anderson L, Caldwell M (2005), “Anatomical perspectives on adult stem cells” J Anat 207:197-208 Details



Ajaz M, Jefferies S, Brazil L, Watts C, Chalmers A (2014), “Current and investigational drug strategies for glioblastoma.” Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol) 26(7):419-30 Details

Palfi S, Gurruchaga JM, Ralph GS, Lepetit H, Lavisse S, Buttery PC, Watts C, Miskin J, Kelleher M, Deeley S, Iwamuro H, Lefaucheur JP, Thiriez C, Fenelon G, Lucas C, Brugières P, Gabriel I, Abhay K, Drouot X, Tani N, Kas A, Ghaleh B, Le Corvoisier P, Dolphin P, Breen DP, Mason S, Guzman NV, Mazarakis ND, Radcliffe PA, Harrop R, Kingsman SM, Rascol O, Naylor S, Barker RA, Hantraye P, Remy P, Cesaro P, Mitrophanous KA (2014), “Long-term safety and tolerability of ProSavin, a lentiviral vector-based gene therapy for Parkinson's disease: a dose escalation, open-label, phase 1/2 trial.” Lancet 383(9923):1138-46 Details

Watts C, Price SJ, Santarius T (2014), “Current concepts in the surgical management of glioma patients.” Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol) 26(7):385-94 Details


Barker RA, Mason SL, Harrower TP, Swain RA, Ho AK, Sahakian BJ, Mathur R, Elneil S, Thornton S, Hurrelbrink C, Armstrong RJ, Tyers P, Smith E, Carpenter A, Piccini P, Tai YF, Brooks DJ, Pavese N, Watts C, Pickard JD, Rosser AE, Dunnett SB, NEST-UK collaboration (2013), “The long-term safety and efficacy of bilateral transplantation of human fetal striatal tissue in patients with mild to moderate Huntington's disease.” J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 84(6):657-65 Details

Sottoriva A, Spiteri I, Piccirillo SG, Touloumis A, Collins VP, Marioni JC, Curtis C, Watts C, Tavaré S (2013), “Intratumor heterogeneity in human glioblastoma reflects cancer evolutionary dynamics.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110(10):4009-14 Details

Walker D, Hamilton W, Walter FM, Watts C (2013), “Strategies to accelerate diagnosis of primary brain tumors at the primary-secondary care interface in children and adults.” CNS Oncol 2(5):447-462 Details


Appel EA, Rowland MJ, Loh XJ, Heywood RM, Watts C, Scherman OA (2012), “Enhanced stability and activity of temozolomide in primary glioblastoma multiforme cells with cucurbit[n]uril.” Chem Commun (Camb) 48(79):9843-5 Details

Heywood RM, Marcus HJ, Ryan DJ, Piccirillo SG, Al-Mayhani TM, Watts C (2012), “A review of the role of stem cells in the development and treatment of glioma.” Acta Neurochir (Wien) 154(6):951-69; discussion 969 Details

Piccirillo SG, Dietz S, Madhu B, Griffiths J, Price SJ, Collins VP, Watts C (2012), “Fluorescence-guided surgical sampling of glioblastoma identifies phenotypically distinct tumour-initiating cell populations in the tumour mass and margin.” Br J Cancer 107(3):462-8 Details

Watts C (2012), “Surgical management of high-grade glioma: a standard of care.” CNS Oncol 1(2):181-92 Details


Al-Mayhani MT, Grenfell R, Narita M, Piccirillo S, Kenney-Herbert E, Fawcett JW, Collins VP, Ichimura K, Watts C (2011), “NG2 expression in glioblastoma identifies an actively proliferating population with an aggressive molecular signature.” Neuro Oncol 13(8):830-45 Details

Borg N, Guilfoyle MR, Greenberg DC, Watts C, Thomson S (2011), “Serum albumin and survival in glioblastoma multiforme.” J Neurooncol 105(1):77-81 Details

Guilfoyle MR, Weerakkody RA, Oswal A, Oberg I, Jeffery C, Haynes K, Kullar PJ, Greenberg D, Jefferies SJ, Harris F, Price SJ, Thomson S, Watts C (2011), “Implementation of neuro-oncology service reconfiguration in accordance with NICE guidance provides enhanced clinical care for patients with glioblastoma multiforme.” Br J Cancer 104(12):1810-5 Details

Kenney-Herbert EM, Ball SL, Al-Mayhani TM, Watts C (2011), “Glioblastoma cell lines derived under serum-free conditions can be used as an in vitro model system to evaluate therapeutic response.” Cancer Lett 305(1):50-7 Details


Iovino M, Patani R, Watts C, Chandran S, Spillantini MG (2010), “Human stem cell-derived neurons: a system to study human tau function and dysfunction.” PLoS One 5(11):e13947 Details


Fael Al-Mayhani TM, Ball SL, Zhao JW, Fawcett J, Ichimura K, Collins PV, Watts C (2009), “An efficient method for derivation and propagation of glioblastoma cell lines that conserves the molecular profile of their original tumours.” J Neurosci Methods 176(2):192-9 Details

Zhao JW, Raha-Chowdhury R, Fawcett JW, Watts C (2009), “Astrocytes and oligodendrocytes can be generated from NG2+ progenitors after acute brain injury: intracellular localization of oligodendrocyte transcription factor 2 is associated with their fate choice.” Eur J Neurosci 29(9):1853-69 Details


Clelland CD, Barker RA, Watts C (2008), “Cell therapy in Huntington disease.” Neurosurg Focus 24(3-4):E9 Details


Donovan T, Fryer TD, Peña A, Watts C, Carpenter TA, Pickard JD (2003), “Stereotactic MR imaging for planning neural transplantation: a reliable technique at 3 Tesla?” Br J Neurosurg 17(5):443-9 Details

Watts C, Donovan T, Gillard JH, Antoun NM, Burnstein R, Menon DK, Carpenter TA, Fryer T, Thomas DG, Pickard JD (2003), “Evaluation of an MRI-based protocol for cell implantation in four patients with Huntington's disease.” Cell Transplant 12(7):697-704 Details


Armstrong RJ, Watts C, Svendsen CN, Dunnett SB, Rosser AE (2000), “Survival, neuronal differentiation, and fiber outgrowth of propagated human neural precursor grafts in an animal model of Huntington's disease.” Cell Transplant 9(1):55-64 Details

Brasted PJ, Watts C, Torres EM, Robbins TW, Dunnett SB (2000), “Behavioral recovery after transplantation into a rat model of Huntington's disease: dependence on anatomical connectivity and extensive postoperative training.” Behav Neurosci 114(2):431-6 Details

Watts C, Brasted PJ, Dunnett SB (2000), “The morphology, integration, and functional efficacy of striatal grafts differ between cell suspensions and tissue pieces.” Cell Transplant 9(3):395-407 Details

Watts C, Brasted PJ, Dunnett SB (2000), “Embryonic donor age and dissection influences striatal graft development and functional integration in a rodent model of Huntington's disease.” Exp Neurol 163(1):85-97 Details

Watts C, Dunnett SB (2000), “Towards a protocol for the preparation and delivery of striatal tissue for clinical trials of transplantation in Huntington's disease.” Cell Transplant 9(2):223-34 Details

Watts C, McNamara IR, Dunnett SB (2000), “Volume and differentiation of striatal grafts in rats: relationship to the number of cells implanted.” Cell Transplant 9(1):65-72 Details


Brasted PJ, Watts C, Robbins TW, Dunnett SB (1999), “Associative plasticity in striatal transplants.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 96(18):10524-9 Details

Brasted PJ, Watts C, Torres EM, Robbins TW, Dunnett SB (1999), “Behavioural recovery following striatal transplantation: effects of postoperative training and P-zone volume.” Exp Brain Res 128(4):535-8 Details


Dunnett SB, Carter RJ, Watts C, Torres EM, Mahal A, Mangiarini L, Bates G, Morton AJ (1998), “Striatal transplantation in a transgenic mouse model of Huntington's disease.” Exp Neurol 154(1):31-40 Details

Watts C, Caldwell MA, Dunnett SB (1998), “The development of intracerebral cell-suspension implants is influenced by the grafting medium.” Cell Transplant 7(6):573-83 Details

Watts C, Dunnett SB (1998), “Effects of severity of host striatal damage on the morphological development of intrastriatal transplants in a rodent model of Huntington's disease: implications for timing of surgical intervention.” J Neurosurg 89(2):267-74 Details


Dunnett SB, Kendall AL, Watts C, Torres EM (1997), “Neuronal cell transplantation for Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases.” Br Med Bull 53(4):757-76 Details

Watts C, Dunnett SB, Rosser AE (1997), “Effect of embryonic donor age and dissection on the DARPP-32 content of cell suspensions used for intrastriatal transplantation.” Exp Neurol 148(1):271-80 Details