Xuan Mu, Yu Wang, Chengchen Guo, et al.
Dr. David Kaplan’s group studied the hierarchical molecular assembly of silk proteins to identify important parameters that would ensure the proper development of proteinaceous structures in digital manufacturing. They sought to recapitulate the natural aqueous solvent conditions experienced by silkworms and spiders in order to advance 3D printing with silk and its applications in regenerative medicine.
The team took advantage of rationally designed aqueous solvents with various inorganic salts to mimic the crucial solvent conditions of silk spinning by silkworms and spiders. The inorganic salts, such as dipotassium phosphate and sodium chloride, were added at an appropriate pH to support self-assembly of silk proteins. Through this process, they developed a bioink that could be printed on their INKREDIBLE system.
The researchers were able to construct from silk fibroin 3D macroscale architectures that exhibited the desired biocompatibility, mechanical strength and shape complexity. Using the INKREDIBLE bioprinter, they were able to create versatile 3D structures that could lead to the engineering of a wide range of biomedical devices, from drug delivery to surgical implants to tissue scaffolds.