Voice impairment is the most common communication disorder with nearly 20 million people in the US reporting symptoms of dysphonia annually. The cost of treatment and lost wages for this disorder is approaching $13 billion. The etiology of these disorders is diverse, but given their anatomic location, the vocal folds (VFs) are susceptible to a multitude of injurious stimuli, including reflux of gastric contents, iatrogenic injury, and the inherent trauma associated with voice production. Injury can result in altered lamina propria (LP) architecture resulting in aberrant phonatory physiology. To date, no treatment restores the native VF extracellular matrix (ECM) composition, structure, and function following VF injury which likely underlies suboptimal outcomes for patients with VF scar. ECMs, if appropriately processed, can be used as resorbable, clinically safe, and naturally derived biomaterials that promote tissue remodeling while reducing fibrosis. Injectable ECM hydrogels are ideal for clinical application and cell delivery, particularly given the emerging practice and distinct advantages of in-office procedures using minimally invasive approaches. Work from our group and others provide promising data regarding the role of decellularized vocal fold lamina propria (VFLP-ECM) as an injectable agent or as a delivery vehicle for therapeutic cells such as mesenchymal stem cells. We broadly hypothesize that VFLP-ECM hydrogels (with or without stem cells) will promote functional repair of the VFs.
Voice disorders are the most common communication disorder in the US with an estimated 20 million Americans each year suffering from voice-related problems. Biological materials obtained from decellularized tissues or organs have become attractive materials for clinical use given their superior ability to promote healing at the site of application. Addition of a therapeutic stem cell component could enhance the efficacy of the biological material. The proposed work will develop a unique vocal fold lamina propria-specific hydrogel that will degrade over time to direct the local host tissue response towards repair and reduction of vocal fold scar tissue. The proposed work will also determine the contribution of mesenchymal stem cells on the overall regenerative response.