A team of researchers at MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA, have developed a synthetic tissue that they hope could one day work to heal the damage and abused vocal cords.
While restringing a guitar or violin is a relatively simple task, vocal cord damage can be permanent, preventing singers from producing a good tone or even realising their ultimate potential.
Adele and Florence Welch have both suffered vocal problems recently, and Dame Julie Andrews famously lost her voice due to nodule and throat surgery.
Excitement has grown around the prospect of these so-called artificial vocal cords, which have so far been shown to be safe in animal testing but are yet to be trialed on humans. Full clinical trials are set to begin next year although experts have urged for caution it may be some time before any practical breakthrough is made. There’s also no guarantee that the idea will work as hoped on human vocal cords.
The technique works by injection, with the synthetic tissue pumped into damaged vocal cords. This artificial matter has been developed to mimic real vocal cord tissue as closely as possible, with one gel tested that can flutter at around the same speed as an average woman mid-conversation – around 200 times per second.
Speaking to the BBC, Professor Robert Langer said: “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.”
Vocal cords produce noise by vibrating two folds of tissue. If the tissue or folds are strained or damaged, the body produces scar tissue which is less pliable and doesn’t vibrate as well as healthy tissue. This creates a hoarse voice, vocal cracking and other problems for singers.
Have you ever suffered from vocal problems? Do you struggle to sing due to long lasting damage? What do you think of artificial vocal cords as an idea?
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