UW-Madison scientists grow functional vocal cord tissue in lab

UW-Madison scientists have grown human vocal cord tissue in a dish, which made sound when transplanted into voice boxes from cadaver dogs — a development that could lead to better treatments for people with voice disorders.

Such implants likely won’t be ready for human testing for years. But re-creating the tissue, known as a vocal fold, and showing it was functional in dog larynges and was not rejected by a mouse model of the human immune system are significant steps, the researchers said.

“We never imagined that we would see the impressive level of function that we did — and that this engineered tissue, created with actual human vocal fold cells, would have such strong potential as a therapy,” said Nathan Welham, a UW-Madison speech language pathologist and leader of the research team.

The researchers reported their findings Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine.