The biomedical use of silk: past, present, future

Chris Holland, Keiji Numata, Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina, F. Philipp Seib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

120 Citations (Scopus)
157 Downloads (Pure)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1800465
Number of pages26
JournalAdvanced Healthcare Materials
Issue number1
Early online date20 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2019


  • silk
  • fibroin
  • spider silk
  • clinical use
  • recombinant silk

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