Manufacture and drug delivery applications of silk nanoparticles

Wongpinyochit, Thidarat and Johnston, Blair F and Seib, Philipp (2016) Manufacture and drug delivery applications of silk nanoparticles. The Journal of Visualized Experiments, 116. ISSN 1940-087X (

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Silk is a promising biopolymer for biomedical and pharmaceutical applications due to its outstanding mechanical properties, biocompatibility and biodegradability, as well its ability to protect and subsequently release its payload in response to a trigger. While silk can be formulated into various material formats, silk nanoparticles are emerging as promising drug delivery systems. Therefore, this article covers the procedures for reverse engineering silk cocoons to yield a regenerated silk solution that can be used to generate stable silk nanoparticles. These nanoparticles are subsequently characterized, drug loaded and explored as a potential anticancer drug delivery system. Briefly, silk cocoons are reverse engineered first by degumming the cocoons, followed by silk dissolution and clean up, to yield an aqueous silk solution. Next, the regenerated silk solution is subjected to nanoprecipitation to yield silk nanoparticles – a simple but powerful method that generates uniform nanoparticles. The silk nanoparticles are characterized according to their size, zeta potential, morphology and stability in aqueous media, as well as their ability to entrap a chemotherapeutic payload and kill human breast cancer cells. Overall, the described methodology yields uniform silk nanoparticles that can be readily explored for a myriad of applications, including their use as a potential nanomedicine.