Brain Sciences

Prof Jonathan Gale

Prof Jonathan Gale

Professor of Cell Biology

The Ear Institute

Faculty of Brain Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Oct 1999

Research summary

Hair cells are the sensory receptors of the ear that enable us to hear and balance. The main focus of my lab is to determine the signalling events that control repair and regeneration of hair cells after cell damage or loss. The avian inner ear has a powerful ability to regenerate hair cells after injury whereas in mammals that regenerative potential is absent. We are taking a comparative approach. By studying the signalling processes in these two species we aim to discover the essential elements that control hair cell repair and regeneration.

 A combination of dynamic imaging, cellular and molecular techniques are being used to study intracellular signalling in and between support cells. Why the support cells you may ask? These are the progenitor cells that divide or undergo phenotypic conversion to produce hair cells.A range of different techniques are used to damage hair cells. We measure spatio-temporal changes in a number of candidate signaling pathways and molecules e.g. intracellular calcium and cyclic AMP in response to hair cell damage or loss. Inhibitor and promotor molecules of different signalling pathways are used to investigate the mechanisms underlying hair cell regeneration. Other projects related include investigating the potential for hair cells to repair after damage, and the role of Rho proteins and of gap junction proteins in hair cell repair and regeneration. Some projects involve collaborative work with Dr Sally Dawson here at the UCL Ear Institute

Teaching summary

I have taught on the Biomedical Sciences program since 2000 and now run the Anatomy and Physiology of the Audiovestibular System Modules for the BSc and MSc's at the the UCL Ear Institute.


University of Bristol
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1994
University of Sheffield
First Degree, Bachelor of Science (Honours) | 1990


I first became really interested in physiology whilst doing a Zoology ‘A’ level practical project on daphnia (water fleas) at school. In the experiment we were able to monitor the flea’s heart rate whilst changing the fluid it was bathed in. A simple but classic experiment- I was hooked. After a Physiology BSc I went looking for a PhD project. For various reasons, including the fact that I have a unilateral deafness, I decided to undertake my PhD in sensory hair cell physiology with Jonathan Ashmore in Bristol funded by the Hearing Research Trust (now Deafness Research UK). I used patch clamp techniques to understand how mammalian hair cells work. After my PhD, I took the Woods Hole Neurobiology course – a most amazing course. It think that this was a pivotal moment in my career. A year later I was lucky enough to get a Wellcome International Prize Travelling Fellowship to work with Jeff Corwin at the University of Virginia, whom I had met whist in Woods Hole. At UVA I learnt many things including techniques and approaches towards understanding hair cell regeneration. I came back from the USA and spent two years working with Guy Richardson in Sussex, where I added molecular biology to my CV and also got interested in a fun molecule called FM1-43. From Sussex I moved to UCL to take up a Royal Society University Research Fellowship and to set up my own lab in the Department of Physiology. In 2005 I moved my lab over the new facilities at the UCL Ear Institute.