Surface properties of silk fibroin films and their interaction with fibroblasts

Macromol Biosci. 2005 Dec 15;5(12):1175-83. doi: 10.1002/mabi.200500137.


There is a growing interest in the use of silk as a biomaterial for tissue engineering. Silk threads from Bombyx mori have a fibrous core of fibroin, the protein responsible for biocompatibility and bioactivity, which is surrounded by a family of "gummy" proteins, called sericins, which are almost completely removed during silk degumming. Three different methanol treatments on regenerated fibroin films were used to convert viscous solutions of Silk I to an insoluble crystalline form (Silk II), in an attempt to devise new processing protocols for the creation of a cell guiding fibroin surface. Human fibroblasts (MRC5 line) were used as probes of the cell-biomaterial interaction in the early stages of the process (1 h, 3 h, 6 h and 4 d after seeding). The effect of each treatment on cell adhesion, spreading and distribution was monitored by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and was correlated to superficial properties (like roughness and crystallinity) and fibroin conformation by means of atomic force microscopy (AFM), used in both topographical and acoustic mode, and attenuated total internal reflection infrared spectroscopy (FTIR-ATR). It was found that traditional methanol treatments where fibroin films were soaked in methanol solution produced roughness patterns that affected only the very early stages of fibroblast adhesion (until 3 h from seeding), while the new treatment proposed could really dialogue with the cells. Its non-homogeneous surface can explain the existence of cells spreading in specific directions and the presence of cell repellent areas even 4 d after seeding.

MeSH terms

  • Biocompatible Materials / chemistry*
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Fibroblasts / cytology*
  • Fibroins / chemistry*
  • Fibroins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Methanol / chemistry
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared / methods
  • Surface Properties
  • Water


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Water
  • Fibroins
  • Methanol