PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 20, 2012 A new made-in-the-lab material designed to rejuvenate the human voice, restoring the flexibility that vocal cords lose with age and disease, is emerging from a collaboration between scientists and physicians, a scientist heading the development team said here today.
That's just one of several innovations that Robert Langer, Sc.D., discussed in delivering the latest Kavli Foundation Innovations in Chemistry Lecture at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). More than 14,000 scientists and others are expected to attend the meeting, which features 8,600 reports on new advances in science and other topics. The sessions continue through Thursday in the Pennsylvania Convention Center and downtown hotels.
Langer heads a team of almost 100 in laboratories at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the world's largest academic research laboratories. He holds, or has applied for, more than 800 patents, and has founded or co-founded numerous companies, with honors that include the ACS' 2012 Priestley Medal, the highest honor of the world's largest scientific society.
The artificial vocal cord material, the first designed to restore lost flexibility in human vocal cords, results from an ongoing effort to produce artificial tissues in the lab, Langer explained. Lost flexibility in the vocal cords, due to the effects of aging or disease, is a major factor in the voice loss that affects 18 million people in the United States alone.
"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," explained Langer, who is the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT.
The vocal cords are two folds in the "voice box" that vibrate, or come together and away from each other very quickly to produce puffs of air that help form sounds.
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