Ruben Stepanyan Awarded a Prestigious Research Grant from RNID (Royal National Institute for Deaf People)

Ruben Stepanyan, PhD

Ruben Stepanyan, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, has been awarded a prestigious Discovery Research Grant from RNID (Royal National Institute for Deaf People) in the United Kingdom to advance research aimed at combating acquired hearing loss (AHL).

RNID is a national charity supporting the 12 million people in the UK who are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus. It is the only UK charity dedicated to funding hearing research, and it has selected Stepanyan’s research proposal, which aims to better understand and treat AHL, a pervasive impairment affecting the aging population.

Stepanyan's research proposal—Targeting mitochondrial calcium uptake to protect against noise-induced hearing loss—focuses on unraveling the intricate cellular mechanisms underlying acquired hearing loss, a condition that detrimentally impacts the quality of life for many individuals. The research specifically targets the elderly, where AHL is prevalent and contributes to increased social isolation, depression and cognitive decline.

Utilizing mouse models with altered mitochondrial function, Stepanyan’s research aims to discern the crucial role these cellular powerhouses play in influencing susceptibility to hearing loss as individuals age.

"Our proposed study aims to bridge the knowledge gap regarding the cellular mechanisms underlying acquired hearing loss by studying mouse models with altered mitochondrial function," explains Stepanyan. "Once identified, this molecular information could inform future translational strategies, either pharmacologically using small molecule screens or by genetically reprogramming the auditory cells to preserve hearing function in the affected population."

The significance of Stepanyan's research extends beyond the laboratory, holding promise for the development of robust treatment strategies for AHL. Current treatments primarily involve sound amplification through hearing aid devices and cochlear implants, but a cure remains elusive due to an insufficient understanding of AHL's underlying cause.