• Science Saturday: Bioengineering vocal cords

Two lab technicians wearing cleanroom suits operate bioprinters.

Tissue engineering techniques discovered at Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University created a humanlike vocal cord (fold) structure with the potential to produce a natural-sounding voice. The bioengineered scaffold mimics human vocal folds, with ability to vibrate and make sound. The study team reported the tissue-engineered vocal fold structure suggests potential for growing cells capable of healing scar tissue that impair speech. This research is published in Biomacromolecules.

"Tissue engineering is a promising approach that combines medicine, biology and engineering aimed at regenerating damaged or diseased tissue," says David Lott, M.D., principal investigator. "Tissue engineering strategies that regenerate functional vocal fold tissue following scarring show hope of restoring a normal voice."  Dr. Lott is also the associate director of the Center for Regenerative Biotherapeutics in Arizona.

A human vocal fold is made of various concentrations of hyaluronic acid, a substance that keeps bodily functions moving smoothly and flexibly. Dr. Lott's study team combined varying concentrations of hyaluronic acid made in the lab to recreate the multiple layers of tissue like those found in natural vocal folds. The team documented mechanical, vibratory and acoustic properties in the structure that are like natural vocal fold function.

"We were able to manipulate the stiffness of the new vocal fold structure so that we matched the native pitch of the patient. This gives us the ability to personalize the vocal fold structure," says Dr. Lott. "We are hopeful that these exciting findings are a first step toward a tissue engineered vocal fold replacement."

Regenerative medicine and biotherapeutics are shifting the focus of health care from treating disease to rebuilding health. Mayo Clinic's Center for Regenerative Biotherapeutics is leading this effort and supports tissue engineering as part of its objective of delivering new regenerative cures to the practice.

Read the rest of the article on the Center for Regenerative Biotherapeutics blog.


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