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Biotech, Universities to Test Hydrogel for Vocal Fold Scars

Singer with guitar

(A. Kotok)

28 August 2014. BioTime Inc., a biotechnology company in Alameida, California, is partnering with researchers at University of Wisconsin and Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium to test its hydrogels for treating vocal cord scarring, a voice problem that results from injury or disease. Financial terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.

Vocal folds are part of the larynx that vibrate as air passes through when speaking or singing, made of a soft outer tissue, with ligaments and muscle underneath. When the larynx is injured due to trauma or disease, fibrous scars replace the normal tissue in the vocal folds causing hoarseness, vocal fatigue, delays in producing voice, and impaired singing, particularly in upper ranges. Therapies for vocal fold scarring usually involve treatments for symptoms or surgery.

BioTime produces hydrogels, a matrix of biocompatible extracellular materials, as cultures for the growth and transformation of stem cells, but also as delivery mechanisms for therapies. Susan Thibeault is a medical researcher at University of Wisconsin that studies the use of hydrogels to help repair scarred vocal folds, particularly in the delivery of hyaluronic acid, a natural lubricating fluid in the body produced in the larynx.

In the partnership with BioTime, Thibeault and colleagues at Wisconsin will conduct lab research with BioTime’s line of hydrogels to find the optimum formulations that reduce scarring in vocal folds and restore the elasticity need to function properly. Based on Thibeault’s findings, Marc Remacle at Université catholique de Louvain will conduct early-stage clinical trials to test those formulations in human patients.

BioTime is already testing a product that delivers treatments to the face region. The company produces Renevia, a hydrogel product currently in clinical trials as a way to deliver adipose (fat) tissue for patients with lipoatrophy, a condition affecting people with HIV. Lipoatrophy is the wasting away of fat tissue in the face caused by antiretroviral drugs prescribed for HIV.

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