Robert W. Nickells, PhD

Dr. Nickells is Professor and Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has appointments in the Department of Physiology, UW Comprehensive Cancer Center, Institute on Aging, and the Eye Research Institute.  His research utilizes the tools of molecular biology to investigate pathophysiologic processes of the retina and optic nerve. His current research focuses on intracellular signaling pathways in glaucoma and neuroprotective mechanisms.

To learn more about Dr. Nickell's research, please click here:

Recent Publications


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Negative regulators of angiogenesis: important targets for treatment of exudative AMD.

Clin Sci (Lond). 2017 Aug 01;131(15):1763-1780

Authors: Farnoodian M, Wang S, Dietz J, Nickells RW, Sorenson CM, Sheibani N

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An intraocular drug delivery system using targeted nanocarriers attenuates retinal ganglion cell degeneration.

J Control Release. 2017 Jan 04;:

Authors: Zhao L, Chen G, Li J, Fu Y, Mavlyutov TA, Yao A, Nickells RW, Gong S, Guo LW

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BAX to basics: How the BCL2 gene family controls the death of retinal ganglion cells.

Prog Retin Eye Res. 2017 Jan 04;:

Authors: Maes ME, Schlamp CL, Nickells RW


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Retinal glial responses to optic nerve crush are attenuated in Bax-deficient mice and modulated by purinergic signaling pathways.

J Neuroinflammation. 2016;13(1):93

Authors: Mac Nair CE, Schlamp CL, Montgomery AD, Shestopalov VI, Nickells RW


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Role of HDACs in optic nerve damage-induced nuclear atrophy of retinal ganglion cells.

Neurosci Lett. 2015 Dec 28;

Authors: Schmitt HM, Schlamp CL, Nickells RW

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The Long-Term Effects on the Retina Damaged by Optic Nerve Axotomy.

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2015 Sep 1;56(10):6113

Authors: Nickells RW

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Tools and resources for analyzing gene expression changes in glaucomatous neurodegeneration.

Exp Eye Res. 2015 May 19;

Authors: Nickells RW, Pelzel HR

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Neuroinflammation in Glaucoma and Optic Nerve Damage.

Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2015;134:343-63

Authors: Mac Nair CE, Nickells RW


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Tumor necrosis factor alpha has an early protective effect on retinal ganglion cells after optic nerve crush.

J Neuroinflammation. 2014 Nov 19;11(1):194

Authors: Mac Nair CE, Fernandes KA, Schlamp CL, Libby RT, Nickells RW

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Histone deacetylase 3 (HDAC3) plays an important role in retinal ganglion cell death after acute optic nerve injury.

Mol Neurodegener. 2014;9(1):39

Authors: Schmitt HM, Pelzel HR, Schlamp CL, Nickells RW

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Spink2 Modulates Apoptotic Susceptibility and Is a Candidate Gene in the Rgcs1 QTL That Affects Retinal Ganglion Cell Death after Optic Nerve Damage.

PLoS One. 2014;9(4):e93564

Authors: Dietz JA, Maes ME, Huang S, Yandell BS, Schlamp CL, Montgomery AD, Allingham RR, Hauser MA, Nickells RW


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Functional genomic screening identifies dual leucine zipper kinase as a key mediator of retinal ganglion cell death.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Mar 5;110(10):4045-50

Authors: Welsbie DS, Yang Z, Ge Y, Mitchell KL, Zhou X, Martin SE, Berlinicke CA, Hackler L, Fuller J, Fu J, Cao LH, Han B, Auld D, Xue T, Hirai S, Germain L, Simard-Bisson C, Blouin R, Nguyen JV, Davis CH, Enke RA, Boye SL, Merbs SL, Marsh-Armstrong N, Hauswirth WW, Diantonio A, Nickells RW, Inglese J, Hanes J, Yau KW, Quigley HA, Zack DJ

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Nuclear atrophy of retinal ganglion cells precedes the Bax-dependent stage of apoptosis.

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2013 Feb 19;

Authors: Janssen KT, Mac Nair CE, Dietz JA, Schlamp CL, Nickells RW

Related Articles

Evaluation of the percentage of ganglion cells in the ganglion cell layer of the rodent retina.

Mol Vis. 2013;19:1387-96

Authors: Schlamp CL, Montgomery AD, Mac Nair CE, Schuart C, Willmer DJ, Nickells RW


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The effect of glial fibrillary acidic protein expression on neurite outgrowth from retinal explants in a permissive environment.

BMC Res Notes. 2012 Dec 22;5(1):693

Authors: Toops KA, Hagemann TL, Messing A, Nickells RW

The potential role of epigenetics in ocular diseases.

Arch Ophthalmol. 2012 Apr;130(4):508-9

Authors: Nickells RW, Merbs SL

Under Pressure: Cellular and Molecular Responses During Glaucoma, a Common Neurodegeneration with Axonopathy.

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2012 Apr 12;

Authors: Nickells RW, Howell GR, Soto I, John SW

Hydrocortisone Stimulates Neurite Outgrowth from Mouse Retinal Explants by Modulating Macroglial Activity.

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2012 Mar 6;

Authors: Toops KA, Berlinicke CA, Zack DJ, Nickells RW

Silencing of Fem1cR3 gene expression in the DBA/2J mouse precedes retinal ganglion cell death and is associated with Histone Deacetylase activity.

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2012 Feb 1;

Authors: Pelzel HR, Schlamp CL, Waclawski M, Shaw MK, Nickells RW

The cell and molecular biology of glaucoma: mechanisms of retinal ganglion cell death.

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2012;53(5):2476-81

Authors: Nickells RW


WITHDRAWN: Reprint of: Variations in the rheostat model of apoptosis: What studies of retinal ganglion cell death tell us about the functions of the Bcl2 family proteins.

Exp Eye Res. 2011 Jul 29;

Authors: Nickells RW

Accelerated retinal ganglion cell death in mice deficient in the Sigma-1 receptor.

Mol Vis. 2011;17:1034-43

Authors: Mavlyutov TA, Nickells RW, Guo LW


Variations in the rheostat model of apoptosis: what studies of retinal ganglion cell death tell us about the functions of the Bcl2 family proteins.

Exp Eye Res. 2010 Jul;91(1):2-8

Authors: Nickells RW

A single nucleotide polymorphism in the Bax gene promoter affects transcription and influences retinal ganglion cell death.

ASN Neuro. 2010;2(2):e00032

Authors: Semaan SJ, Li Y, Nickells RW

Histone H4 deacetylation plays a critical role in early gene silencing during neuronal apoptosis.

BMC Neurosci. 2010;11:62

Authors: Pelzel HR, Schlamp CL, Nickells RW

The apoptotic response in HCT116BAX-/- cancer cells becomes rapidly saturated with increasing expression of a GFP-BAX fusion protein.

BMC Cancer. 2010;10:554

Authors: Semaan SJ, Nickells RW