We might soon see doctors using lab-grown vocal cord tissue capable of producing realistic sounds for combating voice loss or damaged voice. Scientists have grown those vocal cord tissues in laboratory setup using human cells.
This amazing work by the scientists marks the very first step towards more improved treatments for patients who have lost their voices due to a disease or injury.
For those who don’t know: vocal cords contain two bands of smooth muscle tissues that remain lined with a substance called mucosa. The folds in the vocal cords start vibrating persistently the moment air passes through them and this way they produce sounds. However, ailments like cancer might destroy delicate folds vocal cords have and end up the damaging voice; some patients even lose their voice entirely.
Treatments for these problems are limited. At times, doctors inject viscous materials into the damaged vocal cords for making the folds more flexible. The other standard method of treatment is voice coaching.
Researchers in the United States decided to take an entirely different approach. They grew several layers of vocal cord cells on scaffolds that created sturdy elastic tissues identical to the ones present in a natural voice chamber. When the lab-grown tissues were tested by doctors voice chambers extracted from dead dogs, it was found that they are capable of creating similar sounds as natural vocal cord muscles.
Nathan Welham of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the expert who led the research, said that voice is an incredible thing, but we don’t feel like giving it much attention until there’s a problem. Welham described vocal cords’ ability to vibrate and making sounds like something unique and remarkable.
The researcher added that when vocal cord tissue gets damaged, it cannot regenerate and recover normally and at present medical science also don’t have an extremely effective solution for dealing with such situations. According to him, to date experts have struggled to come up with a proper solution to this problem as this perfect system cannot be replicated easily.
The US team under Welham worked together with doctors in Japan for growing vocal cord tissues in the lab from healthy living cells and connective tissue collected from vocal cords of a dead human donor and four individuals who had to get their voice chambers removed for some medical reasons.
The thorough research has been detailed in the traditional journal Science Translational Medicine.