Breakthrough larynx transplant trials to commence in the UK

The first voicebox transplant in the UK may be only months away after the the Royal College of Surgeons gave its approval for trials in the controversial and complicated procedure to proceed.

Larynx TransplantA report by the college said the pioneering procedure could help people who had cancer of the larynx to speak and breathe normally again.

The decision backs the efforts of Prof Martin Birchall, professor of laryngology at the University College London Ear Institute, who was the lead scientist involved in the ground-breaking 18-hour operation on a woman in the US last October.

Brenda Charett Jensen had been able to communicate only with a handheld electronic device for 11 years and breathed through a tracheotomy tube. Two weeks after the operation, she was able to speak her first words and can now talk normally.

"This operation has restored my life," she said. "I feel so blessed to have been given this opportunity. It is a miracle. I'm talking, talking, talking, which just amazes my family and friends."

More than a thousand people a year have their voice box or larynx destroyed by disease and injury, making swallowing, breathing and speaking almost impossible.