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Spider silk: A promising material for regenerative medicine and artificial tissue production

by News Staff
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Researchers at the University of Bayreuth, led by Prof. Dr. Thomas Scheibel, have made an exciting discovery about spider silk materials. By modifying or processing them in specific ways, they can encourage the adhesion, growth, and proliferation of certain types of living cells. This can be achieved through biochemical modifications of the silk proteins or by creating surface structures on spider silk coatings.

The effects of these materials on cells can be tailored to specific types, making them a promising avenue for regenerative medicine and the production of artificial tissue. These groundbreaking findings have been published in both Advanced Healthcare Materials and Advanced Materials Interfaces.

Spider silk promotes the formation of natural tissue in a cell-specific manner

The successful restoration of damaged or destroyed tissue often involves guiding the development of specific cells, such as skin, muscle, and nerve cells, to create a functioning network. Spider silk scaffolds implanted in the body can provide a foundation for this natural rebuilding process. These scaffolds encourage newly developing cells to attach, grow, and proliferate, as spider silk proteins are biodegradable and generally compatible with existing cells in the body.

Research conducted at the Chair of Biomaterials at the University of Bayreuth has shown how spider silk scaffolds can be optimized to create spatially distinct sections that are ideal for the targeted attachment and growth of different cell types. This innovation is significant as it allows for the production of large natural tissue structures involving various cell types, while the spider silk scaffold gradually degrades as the tissue regeneration progresses.

Overall, these findings have important implications for the field of regenerative medicine and the development of artificial tissue.

Spider silk implant coatings suppress rejection reactions

The two studies conducted by the researchers at the University of Bayreuth have implications beyond tissue regeneration. They will also aid in the development of implants intended to permanently replace natural tissue in the body. Such implants require materials that are not rejected by the body due to inflammation or allergic reactions.

Spider silk coatings can help prevent such reactions by promoting the attachment of cells in the surrounding tissue. These coatings can be optimized to suit specific cell types, thus aiding in the smooth integration of the implant into natural tissue. The use of spider silk coatings has the potential to revolutionize implant technology and improve patient outcomes.

Cell-specific effects through biochemical modifications

The researchers at the University of Bayreuth have demonstrated that spider silk materials can be modified to produce cell-specific effects by incorporating peptides. Peptides are short-chain polyamino acids that interact with cells and are present in the extracellular matrix (ECM) of natural tissues. The ECM is a molecular structure that fills the spaces between cells in a tissue and stabilizes their arrangement.

By grafting cell-adhesive peptides found in the ECM of various organisms into silk proteins derived from spider silk, the researchers created altered silk proteins that exhibited cell-adhesive or cell-repellent behavior. Some of these modified silk proteins also demonstrated cell-specific interactions, such as the promotion of myoblast attachment and growth by the peptide KGD. Myoblasts are embryonic muscle precursor cells that can develop into muscle fibers.

The implications of these findings are significant, as they point to a novel pathway for creating cell-specific applications of spider silk materials. These materials could be used to design scaffolds for natural regenerative processes, coat implants, or even 3D print hydrogels with encapsulated cells that can be further processed into functional materials. Vanessa Trossmann M.Sc., lead author of the study published in Advanced Healthcare Materials, highlights the exciting potential of these discoveries.

Cell-specific effects through surface structuring of spider silk coatings

In a study published in Advanced Materials Interfaces, the researchers have presented a new method for optimizing spider silk materials. Unlike the previous study, the coatings made from a single silk protein derived from the garden spider do not exhibit cell-adhesive behavior without biochemical modification.

To address this issue, the researchers have used a lithographic process to structure the surface of the coatings in a way that specifically promotes the attachment and growth of certain types of cells. The size and shape of the geometric structures imprinted on the surface evoke varying reactions in different types of cells, as revealed by extensive testing.

According to Prof. Dr. Thomas Scheibel, who led the research team, these findings can be used to lithographically optimize coatings made from silk proteins or other biocompatible materials. This can drive the natural regeneration of complex tissue structures in a cell-specific manner, providing an exciting new avenue for future research.

Source: Bayreuth University

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