Old name, new purpose: why we’ve gone back to RNID

Professor Dan Jagger

University College London

Professor Dan Jagger is a physiologist with a research history in auditory cell electrophysiology. Following a PhD at the University of Bristol, he worked at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, where he investigated the development of electrical signalling in auditory nerve fibres.

After returning to UCL Dan was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship, during which he set up a lab at the UCL Ear Institute to study the role of gap junctions in the cochlea, sub-microscopic structures that are affected in many cases of inherited hearing loss.

More recently he has returned to the auditory nerve to investigate various elements of electrical and chemical signalling. 

Dan’s approaches to hearing research

What do you see as the most exciting breakthrough in hearing research in the last 10 years?

It is exciting that our advancing understanding of the combined effects of genetics and environmental pressures on our hearing is already leading to targeted therapies for people with hearing loss and tinnitus. Such advances that have begun to be the subject of clinical trials can only come from research that studies the fundamental mechanisms of hearing and balance.

What do you think will be the next big step forwards in hearing research?

I am hopeful that we can develop better diagnostic tools that will allow us to give more accurate predictions of the tissue pathologies that underlie certain forms of deafness. These will allow us to make sure that the best route is taken to slow or reverse sensory loss. 

What would make the biggest impact in driving hearing research forward?

Hearing research needs a serious funding boost, as the burden of hearing loss in the ageing population increases. This would allow us to capitalise on the hard pre-clinical work that has taken place in recent years and convert this into meaningful treatments.  

What are the biggest problems faced by hearing research?

Hearing research receives only a small percentage of available funding for health-related studies, though it addresses sensory problems that will face the majority of people and impact on their lives. 

What motivates you to try to improve the world of people who are deaf, have hearing loss, or who have tinnitus?

There is a history of hearing loss in my family, and I can see how it affects people in their everyday life. Not only for the affected person, but also their immediate family members and friends as communication becomes more difficult. 

Why have you chosen to work in hearing research?

I have been working in hearing research for more than 30 years, yet I am continually fascinated by how it is an area of science at an intersection of biology, physics, engineering and many other specialities. Every day is a learning day for me. 

What do you hope your research will achieve?

My work aims to provide us with a better understanding of how the inner ear works. That information will provide a platform for the development of therapies in the short and longer term. 

What does RNID funding mean to you?

RNID funding has been essential to my research throughout my career. On several occasions it has enabled us to leverage larger and longer-term funding from government agencies and other charities. It has been fundamental in the training of the next generation of scientists in this area. 

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