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Polymer Gel Vocal Cords


Julie Andrews’ scarred vocal cords robbed us of  her lovely soprano. Other people with cancer, intubation scars, vocal strain, or other throat conditions suffer even more loss of their speaking and singing abilities.  When Andrews went to Dr. Steven Zeitels, a Harvard professor specializing in laryngeal surgery, she learned of the project he and Robert Langer, a MIT professor in chemical engineering, had been working on to simulate vocal cords with a polymer gel. Langer’s lab started with polyethylene glycol, used in numerous medical and other applications. They’ve altered the arrangement of the molecules so that the gel vibrates the same way as vocal cords do when air passes by. When injected into scarred vocal cords, the gel can restore the behavior of the patient’s vocal cords, hopefully restoring their voice. The team hopes to start human trials next year. The Institute of Laryngology and Voice Restoration, which brought Julie Andrews in as honorary chairwoman and counts rock musicians Roger Daltrey and Steven Tyler among its supporters, helped to fund the research. Below is a short video of the gel compared to human vocal cords.

Posted in science