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Dr. Halum’s Lab Research

When Dr. Halum came to Indianapolis 8 years ago, she spent the initial seven months building a basic science research laboratory focused on stem cell research for the treatment of voice, swallowing, and airway disorders. She worked closely with otolaryngology residents and medical students at the Indiana University School of Medicine to promote clinical and translational research that would ultimately lead to improved patient care.  Her research efforts resulted in funding through the National Institutes of Health based on the merits of the work being produced.  Dr. Halum has developed numerous national and international collaborations through her research.

Restoring Voice and Swallowing Function for Patients with Vocal Cord Paralysis
A focus of Dr. Halum’s laboratory is on developing better treatment options for vocal cord paralysis, which is a major cause of voice, swallowing, and airway symptoms.  Current treatments are not highly effective because they fail to restore normal vocal cord motion.  The laboratory is currently working with muscle stem cells (myoblasts) to determine if they can be programmed to orchestrate nerve regeneration that might restore function of paralyzed vocal cords.  Such work may not only be applicable to vocal cord paralysis, but also other sites of paralysis throughout the body.


Replacing the Human Larynx through Tissue Engineering
Dr. Halum’s laboratory is also focused on using stem cells to tissue engineer a larynx (voice box) replacement.  When patients have their larynx removed because of cancer or trauma, there are currently no options for effective replacement.  As a result, patients must be left with a permanent stoma (or a hole in the neck for breathing) requiring the use of alternative methods of communication, such as tracheo-esophageal speech or an electrolarynx.  Dr. Halum’s laboratory has been able to effectively use stem cells to create the muscle and cartilage portions of a larynx, and they have used these stem-cell-derived, muscle-cartilage constructs to effectively replace half of a larynx in an animal model.  Their goal is to translate these studies into new treatments for patients within the next decade, and they believe this will completely revolutionize treatment options for patients with laryngeal cancer.


Restoring Swallowing Function for Patients with Swallowing Disorders
Dr. Halum recently collaborated with investigators at University of California-Davis on a study using muscle stem cells for the treatment of swallowing problems in a large animal model.  Findings suggested that muscle stem cells are a promising future therapy for patients with swallowing disorders.  She and her collaborators are now working on safety testing studies for the Food and Drug Administration, and their goal is to initiate a clinical study to use muscle stem cells for patients with swallowing problems within the year.

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