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As a test, artificial tissue is transplanted into animals
Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have for the first time succeeded in producing human vocal cords in the laboratory. This may help patients in the future who have lost their vocal cords due to cancer surgery or other injuries. The researchers have now published their results in the renowned scientific journal “Science Translational Medicine”.
Vocal formation through vibration
The so-called “vocal cords” are two small elastic bands that lie in the middle area of the larynx (larynx) and are covered by a mucous membrane. The function of the vocal cords consists in the formation of the voice, because through vibrations that arise during exhalation, we are able to speak certain sounds or tones. If the ligaments are loose and relaxed, a low tone is produced, but high tones can be spoken when tensioned.
Vocal disorders have so far only been cured to a limited extent
If the vocal cords are e.g. Injured by treating laryngeal cancer, the healing options are usually very limited. So far, the injury-related voice disorders could in some cases e.g. can be improved by injecting collagen, but many of those affected also had no effect. But now there could be a new way to help those affected. Because scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have for the first time produced artificial vocal cords in the laboratory.
The team around Dr. For this, Nathan Welham used donated cells from one deceased and four patients who had their larynx removed without cancer, the university said. The cells were cultured and then applied to a 3D scaffold made of collagen, which was similar to the system that is commonly used for the production of artificial skin in the laboratory. After only two weeks, the cells had grown together and had formed a tissue that almost matched the "real" vocal cord mucosa.
Tests on dog carcasses and live mice
The researchers then tested the artificial vocal cords on the larynxes of dead dogs and found that they were able to make sounds. In the next step, the vocal cords were transplanted into living mice to which the human immune system had previously been transmitted (“humanized mice”). The researchers recognized that the tissue was growing and not being rejected - an indication that the artificial vocal cords were not recognizable as foreign bodies by the immune system.
“Our vocal cords are made of a special fabric that is flexible enough to vibrate and yet strong enough to hit several hundred times per second. It's an exquisite system and a tough thing to replicate, ”said Dr. Nathan Welham. However, the researchers would still need clinical applications after years, because studies would first have to follow in which the safety and long-term function would be further investigated. (No)