Effect of β-sheet crystalline content on mass transfer in silk films

J Memb Sci. 2011 Nov 1;383(1-2):44-49. doi: 10.1016/j.memsci.2011.08.032.


The material properties of silk are favorable for drug delivery due to the ability to control material structure and morphology under ambient, aqueous processing conditions. Mass transport of compounds with varying physical-chemical characteristics was studied in silk fibroin films with control of β-sheet crystalline content. Two compounds, vitamin B12 and fluorescein isothiocynate (FITC) labeled lysozyme were studied in a diffusion apparatus to determine transport through silk films. The films exhibited size exclusion phenomenon with permeability coefficients with contrasting trends with increases in β-sheet crystallinity. The size exclusion phenomenon observed with the two model compounds was characterized by contrasting trends in permeability coefficients of the films as a function of β-sheet crystallinity. The diffusivity of the compounds was examined in the context of free volume theory. Apart from the β-sheet crystallinity, size of the compound and its interactions with silk influenced mass transfer. Diffusivity of vitamin B12 was modeled to define a power law relationship with β-sheet crystallinity. The results of the study demonstrate that diffusion of therapeutic agents though silk fibroin films can be directed to match a desired rate by modulating secondary structure of the silk proteins.