Why do we lose our hearing and how can we stop it? Exploring sensory homeostasis, from flies …to mice ….to humans.

Prof Karen Steel (primary)
Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases
King’s College London
Prof Joerg Albert (secondary)
Ear Institute
University College London (UCL)


Disrupted solely by two world wars, human life expectancy at birth has increased steadily over the last century. This remarkable biomedical success story is clouded, however, by the concomitant rise of age-related neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia or sensory decline. Hearing loss in particular affects ~10% of the general population and ~70% of the over 70s. A long life does not always correspond to good health. This project will use the fruit fly Drosophila to explore ageing – and homeostasis – in an adult ear, searching for ways to translate its findings to the human condition and possible pharmacological interventions.


K. P. Steel, C. J. Kros, A genetic approach to understanding auditory function. Nat. Genet. 27, 143-149 (2001).

M. R. Bowl et al., A large scale hearing loss screen reveals an extensive unexplored genetic landscape for auditory dysfunction. Nat Commun 8, (2017).

L. L. Cunningham, D. L. Tucci, Hearing Loss in Adults. N. Engl. J. Med. 377, 2465-2473 (2017).

J. T. Albert, M. C. Göpfert, Hearing in Drosophila. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 34, 79-85 (2015).

Pingkalai R. Senthilan et al., Drosophila Auditory Organ Genes and Genetic Hearing Defects. Cell 150, 1042-1054 (2012).

Morag A. Lewis, Karen P. Steel, A Cornucopia of Candidates for Deafness. Cell 150, 879-881 (2012).

Genes, development and STEM* approaches to biology
Area of Biology
AgeingCell BiologyGeneticsNeurobiologyPhysiology
Techniques & Approaches
BiochemistryBioinformaticsBiophysicsGeneticsImage ProcessingMicroscopy / ElectrophysiologyMolecular BiologySimulation / Modelling