Some of the world's most famous singers have had problems with their vocal cords. You might remember that Adele, whose song "Hello" this month became the fastest-selling digital download ever, had vocal cord surgery four years ago.
The singer and actress Julie Andrews has had multiple surgeries to repair vocal cords that were damaged in the 1990s during a routine surgery. These are well-known cases of vocal cord problems, but it's an issue that affects millions of people.
In fact, an estimated 20 million people in the United States have vocal cord damage. Vocal cords can get damaged from cysts, surgeries, cancers and other ailments. Often, people come out of surgery with a hoarseness in their voice that doesn't go away. Other people lose their voice entirely.
There's an exciting medical breakthrough that can someday help these people. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin have grown 170 vocal cords from cells collected from people.
Incredibly, they used just a few cells to create these vocal cords. They grew in just 14 days.
Vocal cords are inch-long pieces of skin that vibrate up to 1,000 times a second. They create the tone of your voice.
These cells were implanted into mice that are medically engineered to have human immune systems. As it turns out, these cells don't seem to need immune system drugs, as most transplants do. That's likely because the larynx is naturally tolerant to things we eat and drink.
If testing in mice continues to go well, scientists will next test their homegrown voice boxes on large animals. The Food and Drug Administration requires extensive testing before experimental treatments are tried on people. When that happens, the most likely first patients will be people who've completely lost their voice.