The biomedical use of silk : past, present, future

Holland, Chris and Numata, Keiji and Rnjak-Kovacina, Jelena and Seib, F. Philipp (2019) The biomedical use of silk : past, present, future. Advanced Healthcare Materials, 8 (1). 1800465. ISSN 2192-2640 (

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Humans have long appreciated silk for its lustrous appeal and remarkable physical properties, yet as the mysteries of silk are unraveled, it becomes clear that this outstanding biopolymer is more than a high-tech fiber. This progress report provides a critical but detailed insight into the biomedical use of silk. This journey begins with a historical perspective of silk and its uses, including the long-standing desire to reverse engineer silk. Selected silk structure–function relationships are then examined to appreciate past and current silk challenges. From this, biocompatibility and biodegradation are reviewed with a specific focus of silk performance in humans. The current clinical uses of silk (e.g., sutures, surgical meshes, and fabrics) are discussed, as well as clinical trials (e.g., wound healing, tissue engineering) and emerging biomedical applications of silk across selected formats, such as silk solution, films, scaffolds, electrospun materials, hydrogels, and particles. The journey finishes with a look at the roadmap of next-generation recombinant silks, especially the development pipeline of this new industry for clinical use.


Holland, Chris, Numata, Keiji, Rnjak-Kovacina, Jelena and Seib, F. Philipp ORCID logoORCID:;