Imperial College London


Faculty of EngineeringDepartment of Bioengineering

Casual - Academic Research



+44 (0)20 8846 7894helena.watts Website




Burlington DanesHammersmith Campus





Medical advances have ensured that we are all living for longer, but not necessarily with a commensurate quality of life unless the factors that can trigger progressive cognitive decline are addressed. My research includes Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and stem cell transplantation. 

The current focus of my work is on strategies to prevent surgery-induced cognitive decline in older patients. Neuroinflammatory responses to surgery are normally self-limiting. However, alterations in the way the immune system reacts with advancing age may trigger progressive deterioration that can lead to dementia.  I am investigating links that neuroinflammatory responses to surgery may share with Alzheimer’s disease and investigating protective strategies to promote beneficial neuroimmune signaling and support synaptic function following surgery.

Other aspects of critical care I have research interests in include (i) mechanisms by which spontaneous waves of spreading depolarization worsen brain injury and (ii) as cancer recurrence is still a major problem following surgery, I am analysing the impact of anaesthetics on cancer cell invasiveness (see recent images below).

Key research areas

Neurodegeneration, cognitive decline, surgical inflammation, anaesthetics, neurocritical care, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease.

Immunofluorescence data



Chan TG, Ruehl CL, Morse SV, et al., 2021, Modulation of amyloid-beta aggregation by metal complexes with a dual binding mode and their delivery across the blood-brain barrier using focused ultrasound, Chemical Science, Vol:12, ISSN:2041-6520, Pages:9485-9493

Ries M, Watts H, Mota B, et al., 2021, Annexin-A1 restores cerebrovascular integrity concomitant with reduced amyloid-β and tau pathology, Brain: a Journal of Neurology, Vol:144, ISSN:0006-8950, Pages:1526-1541

Saczewski J, Hudson A, Scheinin M, et al., 2016, Transfer of SAR information from hypotensive indazole to indole derivatives acting at alpha-adrenergic receptors: In vitro and in vivo studies, European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, Vol:115, ISSN:0223-5234, Pages:406-415

Zhao H, Huang H, Ologunde R, et al., 2015, Xenon Treatment Protects against Remote Lung Injury after Kidney Transplantation in Rats, Anesthesiology, Vol:122, ISSN:0003-3022, Pages:1312-1326

Andreou AP, Efthymiou M, Yu Y, et al., 2015, Protective Effects of Non-Anticoagulant Activated Protein C Variant (D36A/L38D/A39V) in a Murine Model of Ischaemic Stroke, Plos One, Vol:10, ISSN:1932-6203

More Publications