Silk bioconjugates: from concept to application

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Medical silks have captured global interest. While silk sutures have a long track record in humans, silk bioconjugates are still in preclinical development. This perspective examines key advances in silk bioconjugation, including the fabrication of silk-protein conjugates, bioconjugated silk particles, and bioconjugated substrates to enhance cell–material interactions in two and three dimensions using various material formats. Many of these systems rely on chemical modification of the silk biopolymer, often using carbodiimide and reactive ester chemistries. However, recent progress in enzyme-mediated and click chemistries has expanded the molecular toolbox to enable biorthogonal, site-specific conjugation in a single step when combined with recombinant silk fibroin tagged with non-canonical amino acids. This perspective outlines key strategies available for chemical modification, compares the resulting silk conjugates to clinical benchmarks, and outlines open questions and areas that require more work. Overall, this assessment highlights a domain of new sunrise capabilities and development opportunities for silk bioconjugates that may ultimately offer new ways of delivering improved healthcare.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering
Early online date27 Jan 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jan 2023


  • silk fibroin
  • spidroin
  • chemistry
  • polymer therapeutics
  • bioconjugation


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