Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said that “The human voice is the organ of the soul”. That could explain why we’re always saddened to hear when prominent speakers, such as singer Julie Andrews or film critic Roger Ebert, lose their well-heard voices due to a disease or injury. It’s estimated that 6 percent of the U.S. population has some kind of voice disorder, often due to scarring or straining from disease or overuse.
At Harvard and MIT, researchers have been developing a new type of synthetic polymer that mimics the viscoelastic properties of human vocal cords. The polymer, PEG30, which is a modified form of polyethylene glycol (PEG), was shown to vibrate with a similar frequency to human vocal cords when air was blown through a vocal-fold model made of the polymer. Moreover, the polymer was shown to restore vibration to vocal folds that have become stiff and unable to vibrate due to scarring.
PEG has been shown to be safe in many FDA-approved drugs and medical devices, so researchers are hoping to use the modified polymer as an “injectable device” that is applied directly into the vocal folds every six months.
Take a look at this video below that shows the similarities between the vibrations of PEG30 and human vocal cords:
News Release from MIT: New material could offer hope to those with no voice…
Journal Abstract from the ANNALS: Assessment of Canine Vocal Fold Function After Injection of a New Biomaterial Designed to Treat Phonatory Mucosal Scarring