Will we hear the sound of music again?
Julie Andrews, the star of musicals Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music has announced she will return to the London stage next year after more than 30 years.
The news is especially surprising as Andrews lost her singing voice 12 years ago after her voice box was damaged during surgery. Despite her limited singing ability, she will be performing a one-off show along with several other stars who will perform musical classics from the past 50 years.
That's not to say that Andrews' true singing voice is lost forever. For over half a decade Andrews has been working with scientists who are pioneering methods to restore function to damaged vocal cords. The star has been to visit the lab on several occasions and participated in their press conference to spread the message about the benefits of this medical research.
In the last few weeks, the same team announced it has begun trials of a potential new treatment in mice. A gel called polyethylene glycol, which has similar elastic properties to vocal cords, will be used to replace stiff scar tissue that stops vocal cords from functioning after they have been damaged. The scientists hope the research could move into clinical trials in the next couple of years, and would benefit a number of patients who have had their voice box damaged, for example as a result of cancer treatment.
In the meantime, Andrews' direct backing of the research has done wonders in spreading the word. The story has been picked up extensively in the national and international press, which just goes to show the impact that can be achieved when influential figures lend their personal experiences in support of this type of medical work and highlight the benefits it can bring. If only more celebrities would follow her example.