McMaster University

McMaster University

Alexander K. Ball

, PhD

Pathology and Molecular Medicine

Division: Anatomy

McMaster University
1R14 Health Sciences Centre
905-525-9140 ext. 22424

Currently accepting Graduate Students
Currently accepting Post Doctoral Fellows

Alexander K. Ball

Faculty Biography

Education and Professional Standing

PhD, Anatomy, Dalhousie University, 1982


Research Focus

The purpose of the research being carried out in my laboratory is to identify the factors responsible for the death of injured cells in the retina of the eye.

The overall aim is to i) enhance the survival of the injured cells and ii) encourage the surviving cells to re-establish normal connections in the retina and brain. More than half the causes of blindness are due to retinal diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. In each of these diseases the injury results in the death of retinal cells, particularly retinal ganglion cells and photoreceptors. Retinal ganglion cells die within two weeks of having their axons in the optic nerve cut by the process of apoptosis. Apoptosis is triggered by: 1) the loss of supporting growth factors, 2) glutamate excitotoxicity, and/or 3) toxic chemicals released by surviving cells (neurons and glia). In our experiments we take steps to prevent apoptosis by replacing missing growth factors and blocking the toxic responses to cell injury. Neurotrophins, growth factors (GDNF, CNTF) or anti-apoptotic factors (NAIP, XIAP) are delivered to injured retinal ganglion cells either by direct injection into the eye or by viral-mediated gene transfer. Similar methods are used to evaluate the effect of anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-4, IL-10, or TGF-b) on neuronal survival after injury. The new strategies that are discovered by this research will lead to the development of new drugs by the pharmaceutical industry that will aid in the treatment of diseases affecting the nervous system.

Techniques used in these studies include:

Immunohistochemistry, intracellular injection, tracing neuronal pathways with fluorescent probes, laser scanning confocal microscopy, image analysis, microsurgery.

Academic Focus

Dr. Ball teaches within the Faculty of Health Sciences at both the Graduate and Undergraduate level.  He is currently involved in:

Graduate Studies

  • Medical Science Program, MS 709: Clinical Neuroanatomy

Undergraduate Studies

  • Engineering 2L03 & 2LL3: Anatomy and Physiology, Course Coordinator
  • Undergraduate Medical Program, all medical foundations
  • Undergraduate Medical Program, all medical foundation

Team Members

Dr. Ball's team members: From left: Thomas Sabljic (MSc graduate student), Marc Succi (summer research assistant), Michael Duong (PhD graduate student),  Karlo Hockmann (Postgraduate student)
Left to Right: Thomas Sabljic (MSc graduate student), Marc Succi (summer research assistant), Michael Duong (PhD graduate student), Karlo Hockmann (Postgraduate student)

Selected Publications

  • B. A. van Adel, C. Kostic, N. Deglon, A. K. Ball and Y. Arsenijevic (2003) Delivery of ciliary neurotrophic factor via lentiviral-mediated transfer protects axotomized retinal ganglion cells for an extended period of time. Hum Gene Ther 14: 103-15.
  • P. D. Koeberle, J. Gauldie and A. K. Ball (2004) Effects of adenoviral-mediated gene transfer of interleukin-10, interleukin-4, and transforming growth factor-beta on the survival of axotomized retinal ganglion cells. Neuroscience 125: 903-20.
  • B. Sakic, D. L. Kirkham, D. A. Ballok, J. Mwanjewe, I. M. Fearon, J. Macri, G. Yu, M. M. Sidor, J. A. Denburg, H. Szechtman, J. Lau, A. K. Ball and L. C. Doering (2005) Proliferating brain cells are a target of neurotoxic CSF in systemic autoimmune disease. J Neuroimmunol 169: 68-85.
  • B. A. van Adel, J. M. Arnold, J. Phipps, L. C. Doering and A. K. Ball (2005) Ciliary neurotrophic factor protects retinal ganglion cells from axotomy-induced apoptosis via modulation of retinal glia in vivo. J Neurobiol 63: 215-34.
  • J. Lau, M. Dang, K. Hockmann and A. K. Ball (2006) Effects of acute delivery of endothelin-1 on retinal ganglion cell loss in the rat. Exp Eye Res 82: 132-45.
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