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Scientists Developing Replacement Vocal Cords

Project could restore speech to those with damaged tissues

FRIDAY, Aug. 10, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers hope to develop pliable, new vocal cord tissue to replace damaged tissue that can alter or silence a person's voice.

The five-year project is funded by a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

A team at the University of Delaware said they'll investigate two different tissue engineering approaches for regenerating flexible folds of connective tissue (lamina propria) that vibrate and produce sound as air is forced up from the lungs through the trachea.

Overuse or abuse can result in scarring of the lamina propria, which disrupts their natural pliability and leads to hoarseness or other vocal problems.

One approach to be tested by the researchers involves injecting gelatin-like materials into damaged tissue in order to improve pliability and prevent scar formation.

The second approach involves creation of functional tissue from a "combination of vocal fold connective tissue cells (fibroblasts), artificial extracellular matrix, and biological cues and mechanical stimuli that capture the mechanical and biological characteristics of the natural organs," according to a news release about the research.

More information

The American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery has more about voice disorders.

SOURCE: University of Delaware, news release, July 31, 2007
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