Research ArticleTissue Engineering

Bioengineered vocal fold mucosa for voice restoration

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Science Translational Medicine  18 Nov 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 314, pp. 314ra187
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aab4014

Getting vocal about tissue engineering

The power of the voice cannot be disputed. For instance, Adele’s lyrics would not elicit chills (or tears) without strategic pitch and harmonizing known as appoggiatura; the chant “Yes we can” garnered more than 69 million popular votes to win Obama the 2008 presidential election; and, more simply, voice is the primary means we all use to communicate with co-workers, loved ones, and the rest of society. Dysphonia—or difficulty speaking from vocal fold tissue damage or loss—can impair one’s ability to be an effective communicator. To provide a new option for those with dysphonia, Ling et al. used two different types of human vocal fold cells to create a functional mucosa. When grafted into the dog larynx ex vivo, the engineered vocal fold reproduced natural physiology, including the vibrations necessary to transmit sound. In vivo, in humanized mice, the engineered mucosa was tolerated by functional human immune cells. These data suggest feasibility for transplant and survival in the larynx as well as for function, ultimately giving patients back their voices.

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