Current Understanding and Future Directions for Vocal Fold Mechanobiology.

Journal of cytology & molecular biology 04/2013; 1(1):001. DOI: 10.13188/2325-4653.1000001
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The vocal folds, which are located in the larynx, are the main organ of voice production for human communication. The vocal folds are under continuous biomechanical stress similar to other mechanically active organs, such as the heart, lungs, tendons and muscles. During speech and singing, the vocal folds oscillate at frequencies ranging from 20 Hz to 3 kHz with amplitudes of a few millimeters. The biomechanical stress associated with accumulated phonation is believed to alter vocal fold cell activity and tissue structure in many ways. Excessive phonatory stress can damage tissue structure and induce a cell-mediated inflammatory response, resulting in a pathological vocal fold lesion. On the other hand, phonatory stress is one major factor in the maturation of the vocal folds into a specialized tri-layer structure. One specific form of vocal fold oscillation, which involves low impact and large amplitude excursion, is prescribed therapeutically for patients with mild vocal fold injuries. Although biomechanical forces affect vocal fold physiology and pathology, there is little understanding of how mechanical forces regulate these processes at the cellular and molecular level. Research into vocal fold mechanobiology has burgeoned over the past several years. Vocal fold bioreactors are being developed in several laboratories to provide a biomimic environment that allows the systematic manipulation of physical and biological factors on the cells of interest in vitro. Computer models have been used to simulate the integrated response of cells and proteins as a function of phonation stress. The purpose of this paper is to review current research on the mechanobiology of the vocal folds as it relates to growth, pathogenesis and treatment as well as to propose specific research directions that will advance our understanding of this subject.

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