Silk fibroin is a versatile natural polymer with remarkable mechanical properties. Widely used as a suture material, purified silk is extremely well tolerated in the body. The biodegradability of silk can also be controlled during scaffold manufacture, making it a widely used biomaterial.
We recently demonstrated that silk can be blended with other natural polymers to generate highly functional tissue replacements. We aim to further develop novel biomaterial platforms that mimic the native vasculature, functionalising silk materials with unique extracellular matrix proteins to control and guide cell interactions.
A recent long-term in vivo study, published in JACC: Basic to Translational Science (Filipe et al, 2018) has demonstrated that silk grafts do better the longer they remain in place. Over time they integrate with the native tissue and cells, remodelling so that they become more like the host over several months. They are very well tolerated and show significantly improved signs of healing compared to the Gore-Tex controls.
This project is in collaboration with key national and international colleagues Dr Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina (Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, UNSW) and Prof Cay Kielty (University of Manchester). Through awarding of a recent NHMRC Project Grant, these silk vascular grafts are being evaluated in pre-clinical testing.