Modulation of cell growth on exposure to silkworm and spider silk fibers



Recent years have seen an increased interest in the use of natural and modified silks for tissue engineering. Despite longstanding concerns regarding the biocompatibility of silk sutures, only a few studies have been carried out to investigate the biocompatibility of natural silk fibers. Here, we report an in vitro assessment of the effect of nonmodified, degummed silks on cells. We describe the effects of degummed silk fibers as well as extracted sericin on cell metabolism and proliferation. Endothelial cells directly exposed to native degummed Bombyx mori and Antheraea pernyi silks showed lower rates of proliferation and metabolism than nonexposed cells. A similar but milder effect was observed for cells in direct contact with Nephila edulis egg sack fibers. Sericin and silk-conditioned medium had no negative effect on cell proliferation except in medium supplemented with 5% bovine serum prior to conditioning with A. pernyi silk. The toxicity of A. pernyi was negligible after thorough enzymatic treatment of the fibers with trypsin. It is, therefore, proposed that A. pernyi silk contain one or more cytotoxic components, which need to be removed prior to medical use. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res 2010