silk biopolymer

Distinguish natural and synthetic silk polymers.


Innovative biofibers made from a silk protein of the green lacewing are being developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in conjunction with the company AMSilk GmbH. Researchers are working on producing the protein in large quantities by using biotechnology. The aim is to use the material in the future as a high-grade rigid fiber, for example, in lightweight plastics in transportation technology. It can also be conceivably used in medical technology, for example, as a biocompatible silk coating on implants.

Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP


Nonmulberry silk biopolymers

The silk produced by silkworms are biopolymers and can be classified into two types—mulberry and nonmulberry. Mulberry silk of silkworm Bombyx mori has been extensively explored and used for century old textiles and sutures. But for the last few decades it is being extensively exploited for biomedical applications.

However, the transformation of nonmulberry silk from being a textile commodity to biomaterials is relatively new. Within a very short period of time, the combination of load bearing capability and tensile strength of nonmulberry silk has been equally envisioned for bone, cartilage, adipose, and other tissue regeneration. Adding to its advantage is its diverse morphology, including macro to nano architectures with controllable degradation and biocompatibility yields novel natural material systems in vitro. Its follow on applications involve sustained release of model compounds and anticancer drugs. Its 3D cancer models provide compatible microenvironment systems for better understanding of the cancer progression mechanism and screening of anticancer compounds. Diversely designed nonmulberry matrices thus provide an array of new cutting age technologies, which is unattainable with the current synthetic materials that lack biodegradability and biocompatibility. Scientific exploration of nonmulberry silk in tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and biotechnological applications promises advancement of sericulture industries in India and China, largest nonmulberry silk producers of the world. This review discusses the prospective biomedical applications of nonmulberry silk proteins as natural biomaterials.

© 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers 97: 455–467, 2012.