The innate immune response of self-assembling silk fibroin hydrogels

Gorenkova, Natalia and Maitz, Manfred F. and Böhme, Georg and Alhadrami, Hani A. and Jiffri, Essam H. and Totten, John D. and Werner, Carsten and Carswell, Hilary V. O. and Seib, F. Philipp (2021) The innate immune response of self-assembling silk fibroin hydrogels. Biomaterials Science, 9 (21). pp. 7194-7204. ISSN 2047-4830 (

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Silk has a long track record of use in humans, and recent advances in silk fibroin processing have opened up new material formats. However, these new formats and their applications have subsequently created a need to ascertain their biocompatibility. Therefore, the present aim was to quantify the haemocompatibility and inflammatory response of silk fibroin hydrogels. This work demonstrated that self-assembled silk fibroin hydrogels, as one of the most clinically relevant new formats, induced very low blood coagulation and platelet activation but elevated the inflammatory response of human whole blood in vitro. In vivo bioluminescence imaging of neutrophils and macrophages showed an acute, but mild, local inflammatory response which was lower than or similar to that induced by polyethylene glycol, a benchmark material. The time-dependent local immune response in vivo was corroborated by histology, immunofluorescence and murine whole blood analyses. Overall, this study confirms that silk fibroin hydrogels induce a similar immune response to that of PEG hydrogels, while also demonstrating the power of non-invasive bioluminescence imaging for monitoring tissue responses.