The Engineers from Tufts have introduced a novel format of solids prepared from silk protein that can be pre-programmed with chemical, biological, or optical functions, like mechanical components that alter the colour with strain, respond to light, or deliver drugs.
With use of a water-based fabrication technique based on protein self-assembly, the scientists released three-dimensional bulk substances out of silk fibroin, the protein that offers silk its durability. Then they analysed the bulk substances with water – soluble molecules to prepare numerous solid forms, from the nano-scale to the micro-scale that have embedded, pre-designed functions.
For instance, the scientists introduced a surgical pin that alters colours as it reaches close to its mechanical limits and is about to collapse, functional screws that can be heated on demand in response to the infrared light, and a biocompatible element that allows the sustained release of bioactive agents, like enzymes.
Although, more research is required, additional applications could comprise novel mechanical components for orthopaedics that can be integrated with growth factors or enzymes, a surgical screw that alters colours as it reaches close to the torque limits, hardware like bolts and nuts that sense and report on the environmental conditions of their surroundings, or household goods that can be reshaped or remolded.
The unique crystalline structure of silk makes it one of the toughest substances of natural materials. Fibroin, an insoluble protein found in silk, has an amazing property to protect other substances while being completely biodegradable and biocompatible.
“The potential to embed functional components in biopolymers, regulate their self-assembly, and modify their eventual form creates significant opportunities for bio-inspired fabrication of high – performing multifunctional substances,” says senior and corresponding author of this study Fiorenzo G. Omenetto, a Ph.D. Omenetto is the Frank C. Doble Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
Now it needs to be identified that how this study can leads to further developments and to what level it can deliver results that are promising and can reap more benefits to future needs. The applicability of the study to various domains is also a question to be tested and answered. The pre-designed functions within the materials are expected to be redesigned and remodelled further
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