A proposed method for evaluating vocal fold permeability following chemical damage

Student: Brittney Gunneson*
Mentor: Ciara Leydon
Major: Biology 

Vocal folds provide a primary sound source for oral communication. The vocal folds, located in the airway, are subjected to refluxed materials from the stomach, as well as inhaled irritants and mechanical damage from rapid vibration during speech. Disruption to the vocal folds’ stratified squamous epithelium makes them more susceptible to pathogen invasion and inflammation, and is often a first step in the development of common vocal fold pathologies. The ability of the cells to provide a protective barrier is dependent upon the structural integrity of the epithelium. The goal of this work was to develop a valid and replicable method for evaluating vocal fold integrity, as one does not exist currently. Using animal models, both pig and rat, we sought to disrupt vocal fold epithelial structure. We hypothesized that the disrupted, but not intact, epithelium would be permeated by a fluorescent tracer. Epithelial disruption was simulated by application of a common detergent, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). As anticipated, EDTA disruption resulted in loss of intercellular junctions, as well as epithelial cell sloughing. This disruption increased permeability to a fluorescent tagged protein (FITC-conjugated IgG) as evidenced by permeation of the tracer deep into the epithelium, indicating a loss of barrier integrity. FITC-conjugated IgG permeated only the disrupted tissue, therefore proposing a potentially effective method for assessing epithelial permeability in excised tissue.

*Honors Senior