Major Medical Advance: Working Vocal Cords Grown in a Lab Out of Human Cells

Written by on November 19, 2015 in Medical Advances, Sci-Tech, Science with 15 Comments

By Ian Sample | The Guardian

Vocal cords that produce realistic sounds have been grown in the lab from human cells.


The work marks a first step towards better treatments for patients who lose their voices to injury or disease.

Vocal cords are formed by two bands of smooth muscle tissue that are lined with a material called mucosa. When air passes through them, the folds vibrate hundreds of times per second to make sounds.

But diseases such as cancer can destroy the delicate folds and for many patients, the medical treatments are limited. Some patients with damaged vocal cords have viscous materials injected to make the folds more pliable. Others improve with voice coaching.

Researchers in the US took a different approach and grew layers of vocal cord cells onto scaffolds that produced tough elastic tissue similar to those within the natural voice box. When doctors tested the lab-grown tissue in voice boxes taken from dead dogs, they found they produced the same sounds as the natural tissue.

“Voice is a pretty amazing thing, yet we don’t give it much thought until something goes wrong,” said lead researcher Nathan Welham at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The ability to vibrate and make sounds is pretty remarkable and unique to this part of the body.”

“When the tissue is damaged it doesn’t recover and regenerate normally and we don’t have great solutions at present to deal with that,” Welham added. “It’s an exquisite system and a hard thing to replicate.”


Working with doctors in Japan, the US team grew tissue from healthy connective tissue and lining cells taken from the vocal cords of four patients whose voice boxes had been removed for medical reasons, and one dead human donor.

After two weeks in the lab, the two cell types began to assemble into layers that resembled the structure of healthy vocal cords. Details of the research are reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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15 Reader Comments

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  1. 10153527039496997@facebook.com' Beth Dieter says:

    They can grow vocal cords but they “can’t” save people from cancer.. Imagine that

    • 10201149215489601@facebook.com' Chris St Clair says:

      Cancer is not one illness with one cause. It is a group of related illnesses that take over cells and use the cell’s reproductive capabilities to make tumor cells that do not preform the original function of the cells in question, but, that the immune system doesn’t recognize as foreign. That is why it is so hard to fight.

    • 10153527039496997@facebook.com' Beth Dieter says:

      Yes. And the government knows what can help kill those cells but refuse to make it legal and try to help people. Rather make them go through lengthy, painful, and expensive treatment processes, which often times don’t work, and the government makes millions if not billions of dollars annually. Just my opinion.

  2. 429828813879407@facebook.com' Jenny Mac New says:

    Jessica Pierpoint

  3. 1195266013834936@facebook.com' Jessica Pierpoint says:

    Ian Davidson

  4. 10153730581441064@facebook.com' Marianne Bradley-Kopec says:

    Reese Higgins

  5. 1207064092641273@facebook.com' Leo Draco says:

    404 Error … Page Not Found

  6. 883946008367174@facebook.com' Marion Juni says:

    Cure for tinitus

  7. miriamcarm@aol.com' Miriam Carmona says:

    My left vocal cord is paralyzed, had injections in October 7
    And now in November my voice is cracking up. Starting to feel harsh again. My ENT Doctor check me again and my vocal cord is not moving.

  8. 704297973034444@facebook.com' Bella Crompton says:

    I have never heard of anyone needing new vocal cords …lol

  9. 10153692642248771@facebook.com' Deb De Vito says:

    I did a double take on that …
    did you ?

  10. 409774039226193@facebook.com' Margriet Liefting says:

    so they can make talking robots………………….

  11. 172956753051974@facebook.com' Jaya Dayma says:

    I wish every body part could be made this way…it could help the people to lead a normal life even if some misfortune happens in life…promising research..

  12. 10156225441795357@facebook.com' Luke Vincent says:

    That’s all great and everything but what will these people actually sound like with vaginas in their throats??

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