STATES CHRONICLE – It’s cause for celebration every time medical feats are accomplished, and such is the case of lab-grown vocal cord tissue, which is reported as a success by researchers at the University of Wisconsin.
The bioengineered vocal cord tissue based on human vocal cord cells could one day be the recovery solution for people suffering of severely damaged cords. Researchers are thrilled to report that lab tests proved the artificial tissue vibrated and created sounds similar to the ones produced by natural vocal cords.
There are currently no alternative ways to fix vocal cords that have been damaged, whether they have been injured by cancer or traumatic injury. That’s why UW researchers have focused on bioengineered replacements; their efforts are published in a paper in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Basing their work on vocal cord cells donated by human patients, researchers were able to create a tissue that mimics the vocal fold mucosa in the human larynx, which is made up of flaps that vibrate in order to create human voice. The cells were “planted” into a 3D support made of collagen – the primary structural component making up the body’s organs and tissues.
Two different types of cells were required for the recreation of the thickest – but also most elastic – tissue that composes the vocal folds, and for their fine lining that can vibrate a thousand times a second. Project manager Nathan Welham of the university’s School of Public Health in Madison said these “biomechanical demands” couldn’t be supported by any other tissue in the human body.
Attaching the lab-grown vocal cords to larynxes taken from dogs was a surprising success. When air was blown through them through an artificial windpipe, the brand new vocal cords “produced a steady sound” similar to the one produced with natural human folds.
But being able to produce sound is only the beginning, said Welham, as generating speech is also dependent of the sound modulation that occurs in other structures, such the throat and mouth. However, the eventual success of the bioengineered vocal cords could help reduce the number of people living with voice impairment.
Researchers are positive the lab-grown vocal cords could be successfully implanted in humans, seeing that mice testing triggered only a minimal immune response, similar to the one occurring after corneal transplants. Further research is required before the approach can be applied on people. Nearly 20 million Americans live with some degree of voice impairment, researchers say.
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