A natural creation by spiders and silkworms, silk has perplexed human engineers who are vying to artificially create this strong, fine fiber. In the bid to do this, by mixing silk with synthetic compounds, a research team is getting close to create new implantable composite materials, featuring properties of both. The potential use of this material, still years away, could include structures that keeps the bone in place after surgery or restoring for the cartilage cushions in the knee.
“Meanwhile, silk has great potential to find use in biomedical applications,” said the principal investigator of the project. Silk is replete with properties, and is safe for human use, including its degradation and absorption.
The history of silk in medicine is long. As early as 2,000 years ago, records back up use of fibers spun with silkworms to stitch up patients. And, today, certain surgeries are finished with silk sutures.
The team of researchers are seeking to develop new versatile materials by mixing silk and synthetic polymers, for use in medicine, and other fields as well.
Use of Silk for medical applications dates back long
Earlier, other researchers have created composite materials with silk, typically involving primary protein in silk or short fibers. On the other hand, the team works with silk fabric woven from a long, single thread. In its natural state, cocoons of silkworms contain fibers as long as nearly 5,000 feet long. When such a fiber is used in fabric, it can divide mechanical stress more effectively, than that done by a series of shorter, discrete thread.
For the study, silk from the usual, domesticated silkworm Bombyx mori used. And, also from the stronger, stretch fibers from the wild variety Antheraea pernyi.