Bioactive hierarchical silk fibers created by bioinspired self-assembly

Journal: Nature Communications

Published: 2021-04-22

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-22673-4

Affiliations: 1

Authors: 4

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Research Highlight

Silk research branches into biomedicine

© Mark Heslington/500px Prime/Getty Images

© Mark Heslington/500px Prime/Getty Images

A silk-based biomaterial with an unusual branching microstructure could be ideal for biomedical applications such as tissue regeneration.

Spider silk has a complex structure in which each silk fibre consists of aligned bundles of smaller protein threads called fibrils. Artificial materials with a similar structure are promising for many applications, but it is hard to mimic the production of natural spider silk.

Now, four researchers at Deakin University in Australia have reproduced the fibre-spinning step of silk production by using a circular rotary duct. By rapidly rotating a solution of self-assembled crystallized silk proteins, the team produced fibres consisting of multiple aligned nanofibrils.

Unlike in natural silk, the artificial nanofibrils formed a branched microstructure, which turned out to be a highly suitable biomaterial for growing human umbilical cord endothelial cells on.

The material may be ideal for supporting the regeneration of soft tissues such as skin and cartilage, the researchers suggest.

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  1. Nature Communications 12, 2375 (2021). doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-22673-4
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Deakin University, Australia 1