About 60,000 Americans have had their larynx removed due to disease or trauma. These people are missing out on many of life's little pleasures because the procedure's resultant hole left them without a voice and created an opening directly into their lungs. A simple shower is dangerous as even the slightest amount of water in the lungs can be deadly. Bad weather can be lethal. Things that used to be a mere annoyance — such as a housefly — are now life-threatening.
At Mayo Clinic, David Lott, M.D., and a team of researchers are working to provide options for patients who previously may have felt hopeless. They are exploring both transplantion of a donor larynx, and also building a replacement larynx using the patient's own stem cells.
Read about Dr. Lott and his team's work to give people a voice through transplant or regeneration.
After the onset of most chronic diseases or injuries, the damage — like in the case of a laryngectomy, is there to stay. Other examples include scarring of heart tissue from a heart attack, beta cell dysfunction in diabetes or a spinal cord injury from an accident. Symptoms can be managed, oftentimes with good success, but the underlying tissue or organ damage remains unhealed and can cause complications over time.
Dr. Lott's work, and that of others like him are initiatives within Mayo Clinic's Center for Regenerative Medicine. Established in 2011, the center seeks to address the unmet needs of patients with chronic and degenerative diseases and injuries.
The center is driving regenerative techniques throughout Mayo Clinic's research and practice by building an infrastructure that practitioners can use to apply to their own work. For instance, a researcher interested in applying stem cells to an eye disease can use center resources to extract cells, treat the cells with relevant growth factors, grow them into the necessary numbers for treatment and deliver them back to the patient. It reduces the learning curve from years to months. As a result, researchers can easily explore how regenerative medicine can help their patients.
And Dr. Lott's patients may soon be able to hear their own voice again.
Read more about Mayo Clinic's Center for Regenerative Medicine.