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Expert Opin Drug Deliv. 2011 Jun;8(6):797-811. doi: 10.1517/17425247.2011.568936. Epub 2011 Apr 1.

Silk fibroin biomaterials for controlled release drug delivery.

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Tufts University, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Medford, MA 02155, USA.



Given the benefits of polymer drug delivery implants over traditional periodic systemic administration, the development of biomaterial systems with the necessary properties (biocompatibility, degradation, stabilization, controllability) is paramount. Silk fibroin represents a promising, naturally derived polymer for local, controlled, sustained drug release from fully degrading implants and the polymer can be processed into a broad array of material formats.


This review provides an overview of silk biomaterials for drug delivery, especially those that can function as long-term depots. Fundamentals of structure and assembly, processing options, control points and specific examples of implantable silk drug delivery systems (sponges, films) and injectable systems (microspheres, hydrogels) from the 1990s and onwards are reviewed.


Owing to its unique material properties, stabilization effects and tight controllability, silk fibroin is a promising biomaterial for implantable and injectable drug delivery applications. Many promising control points have been identified, and characterization of the relationships between silk processing and/or material properties and the resulting drug loading and release kinetics will ultimately enhance the overall utility of this unique biomaterial. The ever-expanding biomaterial 'tool kit' that silk provides will eventually allow the simultaneous optimization of implant structure, material properties and drug release behavior that is needed to maximize the cost-efficiency, convenience, efficacy and safety of many new and existing therapeutics, especially those that cannot be delivered by means of traditional administration approaches.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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