Ann Conkle
May 1, 2012

Insect protein inspires vocal chord treatment

A small grasshopper can leap 20 inches. Cicadas can produce sound at about the same frequency as radio waves. How do they do it? They make use of a naturally occurring protein called resilin, which is highly elastic and resilient after being stretched or deformed. Inspired by naturally occurring resilin, a multi-disciplinary team from the University of Delaware is working to create synthetic vocal chords, which vibrate more than 100 times a second at very high frequencies. The team has developed a new polypeptide hydrogel that displays characteristics similar to natural resilin. They are now studying the material to determine if it can be used in vocal fold regeneration. The collaborative work will enable researchers to “design new materials, develop methods to characterize and culture materials at high frequencies, and then test this new class of materials for healing vocal fold tissue," explained Kristi Kiick, principal investigator on the NIH grant funding the work.