In vitro studies on space-conforming self-assembling silk hydrogels as a mesenchymal stem cell-support matrix suitable for minimally invasive brain application

I. Osama, N. Gorenkova, C.M. McKittrick, T. Wongpinyochit, A. Goudie, F.P. Seib, H.V.O. Carswell

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Advanced cell therapies require robust delivery materials and silk is a promising contender with a long clinical track record. Our aim was to optimise self-assembling silk hydrogels as a mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-support matrix that would allow future minimally invasive brain application. We used sonication energy to programme the transition of silk (1-5% w/v) secondary structure from a random coil to a stable β-sheet configuration. This allowed fine tuning of self-assembling silk hydrogels to achieve space conformity in the absence of any silk hydrogel swelling and to support uniform cell distribution as well as cell viability. Embedded cells underwent significant proliferation over 14 days in vitro, with the best proliferation achieved with 2% w/v hydrogels. Embedded MSCs showed significantly better viability in vitro after injection through a 30G needle when the gels were in the pre-gelled versus post-gelled state. Silk hydrogels (4% w/v) with physical characteristics matching brain tissue were visualised in preliminary in vivo experiments to exhibit good space conformity in an ischemic cavity (intraluminal thread middle cerebral artery occlusion model ) in adult male Sprague-Dawley rats (n=3). This study informs on optimal MSC-hydrogel matrix conditions for minimally invasive application as a platform for future experiments targeting brain repair.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13655
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sep 2018


  • cell therapy
  • silk
  • silk hydrogels

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