Research Digest

Lab notes: Scientists develop implantable silk mat to speed up bone healing

The mat is made of natural silk from silkworms.

The natural process of healing bone joint injuries is slow. Now scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati have developed an implantable mat that will help bone joint injuries to heal faster. The mat is made of a layer of silk fabricated onto bioglass and can be implanted at the site of injury.

A bone joint is an area where adjacent hard and rigid bones are joined to one another by cartilage tissue. Cartilage is flexible and consists of specialized cells called chondrocytes that produce a protein, collagen, which helps bone joint injuries to heal naturally.

“We isolated natural silk from silkworms and made nanofibrous mats that aid in treating bone joint defects owing to their special properties,” said Biman Mandal, professor at the institute’s Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, who led the study. “They have a porous sponge like structure that helps chondrocyte cells to attach and grow. The cells produce more collagen at the site of bone joint injury, which helps to heal the injury faster.”

The research has appeared in journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

Doctors also use autologous chondrocyte implantation in which chondrocyte cells from an injured person are extracted, cultured in lab, multiplied, and then transplanted back to the site of injury. This method has high success rate but is expensive. Knee replacement surgery is another option but not affordable for many.

Researchers now plan animal trials in which silk mats will be implanted in goats and sheep to see if it helps to enhance the pace of healing injured joints and to evaluate safety. “If the results are promising, then we will go for human trials,” Mandal told India Science Wire.

Amit K Dinda, professor at the Department of Pathology of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, who is not connected to the study, commented that while the method appears to be low cost, there will be “greater clarity only after preclinical animal studies to test biocompatibility, toxicity, local tissue reaction at the site of implantation and process of sterilization.” All these steps are necessary to obtain regulatory approval for human use.

The study was done in collaboration with the University College London and was funded by the Department of Science and Technology – UK India Education and Research Initiative and the Department of Biotechnology. The team included Joseph Christakiran, Philip JT Reardon, Rocktotpal Konwarh, Jonathan C Knowles, and Biman B Mandal.

This article was first published by India Science Wire.

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