McMaster University

Medical Sciences
Graduate Program

Scope of Search

Alexander K. Ball

Alexander K. Ball

BSc, PhD

Research Interests

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.

Overall aim

  • Enhance the survival of the injured cells
  • 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. Loss of supporting growth factors
  2. Glutamate excitotoxicity
  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.


McMaster University
Health Sciences Centre

telephone: (905) 525-9140 ext. 22424

Program Area

Physiology & Pharmacology

Research Areas

Factors responsible for the death of injured cells in the retina of the eye

Selected Publications

  • Downregulation of BM88 after optic nerve injury.Siddiqui AM, Sabljic TF, Koeberle PD, Ball AK.

    Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2014 Mar 28

  • Rating papilloedema: an evaluation of the Frisén classification in idiopathic intracranial hypertension.Sinclair AJ, Burdon MA, Nightingale PG, Matthews TD, Jacks A, Lawden M, Sivaguru A, Gaskin BJ, Rauz S, Clarke CE, Ball AK. J Neurol. 2012 Jul
  • A randomised controlled trial of treatment for idiopathic intracranial hypertension.

    Ball AK, Howman A, Wheatley K, Burdon MA, Matthews T, Jacks AS, Lawden M, Sivaguru A, Furmston A, Howell S, Sharrack B, Davies MB, Sinclair AJ, Clarke CE.J Neurol. 2011 May