Macrophage responses to silk

Biomaterials. 2003 Aug;24(18):3079-85. doi: 10.1016/s0142-9612(03)00158-3.


Silk fibers have potential biomedical applications beyond their traditional use as sutures. The physical properties of silk fibers and films make it a promising candidate for tissue engineering scaffold applications, particularly where high mechanical loads or tensile forces are applied or in cases where low rates of degradation are desirable. A critical issue for biomaterial scaffolds is biocompatibility. The direct inflammatory potential of intact silk fibers as well as extracts was studied in an in vitro system. The results indicate that silk fibers are largely immunologically inert in short- and long-term culture with RAW 264.7 murine macrophage cells while insoluble fibroin particles induced significant TNF release. Soluble sericin proteins extracted from native silk fibers did not induce significant macrophage activation. While sericin did not activate macrophages by itself, it demonstrated a synergistic effect with bacterial lipopolysaccharide. The low level of inflammatory potential of silk fibers makes them promising candidates in future biomedical applications.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials / pharmacology
  • Bombyx / chemistry
  • Bombyx / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Fibroins / pharmacology*
  • Insect Proteins / immunology
  • Insect Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Macrophage Activation / drug effects*
  • Macrophages / drug effects*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Mice
  • Peptides, Cyclic / pharmacology*
  • Sericins
  • Silk
  • Sutures / adverse effects
  • Textiles / toxicity
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / immunology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Insect Proteins
  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • Sericins
  • Silk
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Fibroins