AVN Members : Dr. Bill Stell

I was trained as a retinal neuroanatomist (largely by myself, with some help from S. Ramon y Cajal) and over the years gained experience in retinal electrophysiology, immunohistochemistry, neurochemistry, and neurodegeneration. I see myself as a retinal and visual neurobiologist.


Currently my research focuses mainly on myopia – the retinal mechanisms responsible for it, and how it might be prevented – in animal models. In my own lab we use the postembryonic chick model of form‐deprivation myopia, applying various conditions of illumination and image‐manipulation plus intravitreal injection of pharmaceuticals, to uncover underlying mechanisms by which retinal activity modulates ocular growth. We have developed and exploited the optokinetic response (to drifting sine‐wave gratings) as a tool for analyzing circuit functions in the retina and how they are altered by light/deak‐adaptation and retinal neuromodulators such as dopamine and nitric oxide; and we are attempting to develop a method for gene‐silencing in the intact, post‐hatching chick retina. Through collaborations with investigators in Asia, I have also become active in studies of myopia in human populations and mammalian (guinea pig, macaque) models, and of optically inducible astigmatism in chicks. I also collaborate with Torben Bech‐Hansen on studies of a mouse model, which he developed, of X‐linked incomplete congenital stationary night blindness (CSNB2A).


At this time I have in the lab:

  • a 4th‐year Neuroscience PhD student who is attempting to define the mechanisms by which atropine, known as a muscarinic‐receptor (mAChR) antagonist, inhibits myopia‐development;
  • a 1st‐year Neuroscience PhD student who is attempting to develop gene‐silencing in chick retina with avian adenovirus‐associated viral (A3V) vector, and is participating in the CSNB studies;
  • a 4th‐year Bachelor of Health Sciences Honours student using blue “S.A.D.” light to inhibit myopia development in chicks and testing for the possible role of melanopsin in this effect;
  • a 4th‐year Bachelor of Health Sciences Honours student using cross‐cylinder lenses to induce corneal astigmatism in chicks and testing hypotheses of the underlying mechanism(s); and
  • a 4th‐year Bachelor of Health Sciences Honours student investigating the role of cell‐cell coupling, via gap junctions, in light‐adaptation and myopia‐prevention in chicks.


Outside the University of Calgary, I serve as an unpaid Expert Scientific Advisor to the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB, Canada), and I volunteer in FFB-°©‐sponsored fundraisers – including the motorcycle Ride For Sight, and Vision Quest conferences to educate the public about research in retinal degeneration.


Stell_head shot_Jan 2011