Since the beginning of civilization, humans have exploited nature as an extraordinary source of materials for medical applications. Most natural materials comprise biopolymers such as nucleic acids and protein–polysaccharides. For biomedical applications, proteins such as collagens have been traditionally employed. Other proteins are silk fibres produced by arthropods (e.g. silkworms and spiders), which provide interesting mechanical properties and the absence of toxicity. Silks present almost all characteristics desirable for biomedical applications, but the research on the underlying proteins has only recently commenced. In the present review, we summarize the current research related to silk being used as a material for cell culture and tissue engineering, particularly focusing on cell-surface adherence, mechanical and textural properties, toxicity, immunogenicity and biodegradability.