Assessment of freestanding membranes prepared from Antheraea pernyi silk fibroin as a potential vehicle for corneal epithelial cell transplantation

Biomed Mater. 2014 Apr;9(2):025016. doi: 10.1088/1748-6041/9/2/025016. Epub 2014 Feb 24.


Freestanding membranes created from Bombyx mori silk fibroin (BMSF) offer a potential vehicle for corneal cell transplantation since they are transparent and support the growth of human corneal epithelial (HCE) cells. Fibroin derived from the wild silkworm Antheraea pernyi (APSF) might provide a superior material by virtue of containing putative cell-attachment sites that are absent from BMSF. Thus we have investigated the feasibility of producing transparent, freestanding membranes from APSF and have analysed the behaviour of HCE cells on this material. No significant differences in cell numbers or phenotype were observed in short term HCE cell cultures established on either fibroin. Production of transparent freestanding APSF membranes, however, proved to be problematic as cast solutions of APSF were more prone to becoming opaque, displayed significantly lower permeability and were more brittle than BMSF-membranes. Cultures of HCE cells established on either membrane developed a normal stratified morphology with cytokeratin pair 3/12 being immuno-localized to the superficial layers. We conclude that while it is feasible to produce transparent freestanding membranes from APSF, the technical difficulties associated with this biomaterial, along with an absence of enhanced cell growth, currently favour the continued development of BMSF as a preferred vehicle for corneal cell transplantation. Nevertheless, it remains possible that refinement of techniques for processing APSF might yet lead to improvements in the handling properties and performance of this material.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Bombyx
  • Cadaver
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cornea / cytology*
  • Corneal Transplantation / methods*
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells / transplantation*
  • Eye / pathology
  • Fibroins / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Keratins / chemistry
  • Light
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Permeability
  • Phenotype
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tissue Engineering / methods


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Keratins
  • Fibroins