Research Projects

Research in Dr. Lott's Head and Neck Regenerative Medicine Laboratory focuses on several conditions that affect patient health, daily functions, quality of life and aesthetic outcomes, and dedicated space to support our research:

  • Laryngeal dysfunction
  • Tracheal dysfunction
  • Larynx and trachea transplantation
  • Vocal fold scarring
  • Mandibular defects
  • Superior semicircular canal dehiscence
  • Laryngeal function laboratory

Our lab is developing bioengineered and 3D-printed implants and novel regenerative cell-based therapies to regenerate affected head and neck structures, and pioneering larynx and tracheal transplantation.

Laryngeal dysfunction

Image of Mayo Clinic lab bioengineering laryngeal implants

The larynx is a complex organ that regulates breathing, swallowing and voice production. Laryngeal dysfunction can have a severe impact on quality of life and in some cases can be life-threatening.

The Head and Neck Regenerative Medicine Laboratory aims to cure laryngeal dysfunction with bioengineered implants. Our long-term goal is to develop safe and effective tissue-engineered replacements for diseased laryngeal segments, including functional vocal folds. Ultimately, our research will lead to a tissue-engineered replacement for an entire larynx.

Tracheal dysfunction

Patients with tracheal scarring or collapse are often dependent on a tracheotomy tube to breathe. For some patients, previous traditional surgeries have failed to repair the damage. For other patients, the damaged portion of the trachea is too long or the patient is too unhealthy to undergo a traditional surgery. Our lab aims to develop bioengineered implants that can be used to replace damaged tissue and restore normal tracheal function.

Larynx and trachea transplantation

Our research and clinical teams are pioneering advances in larynx and tracheal transplantation to help patients who have lost use of their voice box, leaving them unable to speak with their natural voices or breathe through their noses.

Clinical laryngotracheal transplantation is possible. The few documented cases have been shown to be safe and effective. However, a dedicated long-term clinical study is necessary to definitively evaluate this transplant option. With the creation of the Larynx and Trachea Transplant Program, Mayo Clinic has the expertise, capability and funding to perform this investigation.

Patients with severe laryngeal or laryngotracheal incompetence without other reconstructive options will be considered for laryngotracheal transplantation.

Much has yet to be learned about optimal immunosuppression for larynx and trachea transplantation. Our lab is investigating various immunosuppression and immunomodulation strategies.

Vocal fold scarring

Vocal fold scarring is one of the primary causes of voice disorders (dysphonia). Scarring is a troubling condition for patients and presents therapeutic challenges to clinicians. Vocal fold scarring is typically caused by trauma and aging.

Current treatment strategies have struggled to significantly reduce or reverse fibrosis, leaving patients without considerable improvement in their voice. There is evidence that adipose-derived stem cells accelerate healing of injured vocal folds and thereby reduce consequent vocal fold fibrosis. However, the current cost of manufacturing adipose-derived stem cells is high, current good manufacturing process must be followed, and the process takes several weeks to complete. The Head and Neck Regenerative Medicine Lab aims to discover other novel regenerative cell-based therapies for vocal fold scarring.

Mandibular defects

Image of laryngeal function lab space at Mayo Clinic

Defects of the jawbone (mandible) affect both the form and function of a patient's jaw. These defects can be caused by trauma or a tumor resection.

Reconstruction of large defects of the mandible often use tissue harvested from the patient's leg, resulting in substantial donor site morbidity. The harvested tissue must then be manipulated by the surgeon to provide a satisfactory aesthetic outcome.

In collaboration with Jan L. Kasperbauer, M.D., an otolaryngologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, the Head and Neck Regenerative Medicine Laboratory aims to provide patient-specific 3D-printed mandible implants to reduce donor site morbidity and improve aesthetic outcomes.

Superior semicircular canal dehiscence

Defects of the skull above the ear's superior semicircular canal can lead to hearing and balance issues. Current reconstruction techniques use autografted tissue from the patient, leading to donor site morbidity and longer surgical time.

The Head and Neck Regenerative Medicine Laboratory and Larry B. Lundy, M.D., an otolaryngologist at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, are working to develop patient-specific 3D-printed regenerative implants to repair these skull defects and restore hearing and balance to patients.

Laryngeal function laboratory

The laryngeal function laboratory is a dedicated space within the Head and Neck Regenerative Medicine Lab that is used to evaluate and model voice outcomes with regenerative treatments.

The laryngeal function lab possesses an anechoic sound booth, a clinical voice measurement suite and high-speed cameras. A custom-built humidified air flow control and measurement suite allows for excellent control over test conditions.