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Biomaterials. 2006 Dec;27(36):6064-82. Epub 2006 Aug 7.

Stem cell-based tissue engineering with silk biomaterials.

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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Tufts University, 4 Colby Street, Medford, MA 02155, USA.


Silks are naturally occurring polymers that have been used clinically as sutures for centuries. When naturally extruded from insects or worms, silk is composed of a filament core protein, termed fibroin, and a glue-like coating consisting of sericin proteins. In recent years, silk fibroin has been increasingly studied for new biomedical applications due to the biocompatibility, slow degradability and remarkable mechanical properties of the material. In addition, the ability to now control molecular structure and morphology through versatile processability and surface modification options have expanded the utility for this protein in a range of biomaterial and tissue-engineering applications. Silk fibroin in various formats (films, fibers, nets, meshes, membranes, yarns, and sponges) has been shown to support stem cell adhesion, proliferation, and differentiation in vitro and promote tissue repair in vivo. In particular, stem cell-based tissue engineering using 3D silk fibroin scaffolds has expanded the use of silk-based biomaterials as promising scaffolds for engineering a range of skeletal tissues like bone, ligament, and cartilage, as well as connective tissues like skin. To date fibroin from Bombyx mori silkworm has been the dominant source for silk-based biomaterials studied. However, silk fibroins from spiders and those formed via genetic engineering or the modification of native silk fibroin sequence chemistries are beginning to provide new options to further expand the utility of silk fibroin-based materials for medical applications.

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