Tags: vocal | cord | material | aging

New Material Rejuvenates Aging Vocal Cords

Thursday, 23 August 2012 10:09 AM

It’s no secret the human voice suffers with age, as fans of Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte and Woodstock-era singer-songwriters can attest. But a team of MIT scientists and physicians has come up with a new made-in-the-lab material that might be able to restore a youthful luster to aging and diseased human vocal cords.
In a presentation at an American Chemical Society in Philadelphia this week, researchers said the material has the capacity to rejuvenate the human voice by restoring the flexibility that vocal cords lose with age and disease.
Robert Langer, who outlined the progress being made by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology collaborative, said the artificial vocal cord material is the result of an ongoing effort to produce artificial tissues in the lab.
"The synthetic vocal cord gel has similar properties as the material found in human vocal cords and flutters in response to air pressure changes, just like the real thing," said Langer.
Lost vocal cord flexibility is a major factor in the voice loss that affects 18 million people in the United States, he said.
He explained that the vocal cords are two folds in the "voice box" that vibrate to produce puffs of air that help form sounds. The cords are comprised of layers of muscle, ligament and a membrane. But overuse of the voice can cause scar tissue to develop, stiffening the cords and leaving the person with a hoarse voice. Advancing age can produce the same effect, as can having cancer or other diseases.
"About 90 percent of human voice loss is because of lost pliability," said Dr. Steven Zeitels, a collaborator on the project and director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Voice Center whose patients include singers Julie Andrews, who lost her full vocal range after surgery in 1997, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and Adele.
"I recognized this need in my practice over the years, after seeing many patients with voice problems,” he said. “I went to Bob Langer because I knew he could help design a material that would ultimately help patients speak and sing again. Currently, no treatments exist to restore vocal cord flexibility."
After testing numerous substances, Langer's team determined polyethylene glycol 30 (PEG30) – used in personal care creams, medical devices and drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – provided an effective base for polymers used to make the vocal cord material. The PEG30 gel can flutter at a rate of 200 times per second, which is a normal rate for the human voice.
The gel can be injected into a patient's vocal cords to restore and rejuvenate his or her voice. The gel degrades over time, so patients would receive two to five injections per year, estimated Zeitels.
Tests in animals suggest that the material is safe, and human trials may begin as early as next year.
Artificial vocal cords are just one artificial tissue in development in Langer's lab, which includes almost 100 researchers who have secured, or applied for, more than 800 patents.
The lab is also working to build intestinal, spinal cord, pancreatic and heart tissue with many different types of materials.

© HealthDay

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MIT scientists have developed a material that can restore and rejuvenate aging and diseased vocal cords.
Thursday, 23 August 2012 10:09 AM
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