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New UD tissue-engineering research focuses on vocal cords

Damaged or diseased vocal cords can forever change and even silence the voices we love, from a family member's to a famous personality's.

Julie Andrews, who starred in such classics as The Sound of Music, is among the professional singers who have undergone surgery to remove callus-like growths that can form from overuse of these two small, stretchy bands of tissue housed in the larynx, or voice box. Sadly, Andrews may never fully recover her singing voice after surgery on her vocal cords in 1997.

Engineering pliable, new vocal cord tissue to replace scarred, rigid tissue in these petite, yet powerful organs is the goal of a new University of Delaware research project. It is funded by a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Xinqiao Jia, UD assistant professor of materials science and engineering, is leading the project. Jia's research focuses on developing intelligent biomaterials that closely mimic the molecular composition, mechanical responsiveness and nanoscale organization of natural extracellular matrices--the structural materials that serve as scaffolding for cells. These novel biomaterials, combined with defined biophysical cues and biological factors, are being used for functional tissue regeneration.

Randall Duncan, associate professor of biological sciences and mechanical engineering at UD and an expert in cellular biomechanics and signal transduction, is a co-investigator on the project. He will assist the interdisciplinary research team in determining how vocal cord cells respond to mechanical forces, which is the first step in engineering functional vocal cord tissue. Duncan is actively involved in Jia's career development as her senior mentor at UD.

Rodney Clifton, professor of engineering at Brown University and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, is providing the project with a unique te
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Contact: Tracey Bryant
tbryant@udel.edu
302-831-8185
University of Delaware
31-Jul-2007


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