These Lab-Grown Vocal Cords Sound Like The Real Thing

A team of scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has bioengineered vocal cord tissue capable of vibrating and generating sound as well as natural tissue. The feat is being hailed as a scientific first.

The lab-grown tissue may one day be used to restore the voices of patients with damaged vocal cords or those who may have lost theirs to cancer surgery or injuries, according to a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday.

“I was surprised and even shocked at how well the tissue performed,” Dr. Nathan Welham, a speech-language pathologist at the university and lead author of the study, told The Huffington Post. “You always engage in research because you hope for the best, but I certainly didn’t expect that the function would be as exquisite and comparable to the natural vocal fold function.”

The researchers collected cells that make up human vocal cord tissue, and then purified and grew the cells before arranging them on a 3D collagen scaffolding structure.

Over two weeks, the cells continued to grow on the structure. They formed the shape of human vocal cords, taking on the viscosity and elasticity of healthy vocal cord tissue.

“When we first made these tissues, I was struck by how they felt like regular vocal fold tissue,” Welham said. “It was at that point when I first felt the tissue that I realized, gosh, this really seems like the real thing and that we should do some more testing.”

The researchers tested functionality of the lab-grown tissue by transplanting it into the larynx — the muscular voice box that forms an air passage to the lungs — that had been removed from dogs who had previously died. Dogs’ voice boxes are about the same size as a human larynx and vibrate in —> Read More