What causes vocal cord damage

Vocal cords grown in the laboratory

For the first time, researchers have succeeded in growing fully functional vocal cords in the laboratory. The new achievement could give new hope to many people with vocal cord damage.

The human voice - we use it all the time and without thinking about it. Their importance in our everyday life is undisputed. It is one of the most important means of communicating, conveying our feelings and expressing our personality. For this to work, a special tissue with a sophisticated system is required: our vocal cords (vocal folds).

If people have tissue damage to the vocal cords, for example caused by diseases such as cancer, voice disorders (dysphonia) can occur. These, in turn, can severely impair verbal communication. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have now found a way to restore voice to people with vocal cord damage: cultured vocal cords.

Complex system

Vocal cords consist of a very complex system. When speaking or singing, our vocal cords are drawn towards one another, when we breathe out they are set into vibration and sound waves are created that we perceive as sounds or tones. If the tissue of our vocal cords is damaged, this can lead to voice disorders (dysphonia).

Human vocal cord cells

To help people with dysphonia regain a fully functional voice, the researchers created new vocal cords from two different human cell types in the vocal cord tissue and the vocal cord mucosa. To do this, they took cells from the vocal cord tissue of patients, cultivated them on a collagen scaffold flushed with nutrient solution, and were thus able to grow new, functional vocal cords.

The artificially created vocal organs were just as elastic and stable as natural vocal cords. The gene activity, the proteins contained in the vocal cord tissue, and acoustic and vibration-mechanical performances were also comparable to those of natural vocal cords.

The vocal cord, which was grown in the laboratory, has not yet been transplanted - further examinations are required. Nonetheless, this success is an important first step in future therapy for people with voice disorders.

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Authors:
Tanja Unterberger
Editorial editing:
Katrin Derler, BA

Updated on:

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