In vitro evaluation of a novel non-mulberry silk scaffold for use in tendon regeneration

Tissue Eng Part A. 2015 May;21(9-10):1539-51. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEA.2014.0128. Epub 2015 Mar 10.


Tearing of the rotator cuff tendon in the shoulder is a significant clinical problem, with large/full-thickness tears present in ∼22% of the general population and recurrent tear rates postarthroscopic repair being quoted as high as 94%. Tissue-engineered biomaterials are increasingly being investigated as a means to augment rotator cuff repairs, with the aim of inducing host cell responses to increase tendon tissue regeneration. Silk-derived materials are of particular interest due to the high availability, mechanical strength, and biocompatibility of silks. In this study, Spidrex(®), a novel knitted, non-mulberry silk fibroin scaffold was evaluated in vitro for its potential to improve tendon regeneration. Spidrex was compared with a knitted Bombyx mori silk scaffold, a 3D collagen gel and Fiberwire(®) suture material. Primary human and rat tenocytes successfully adhered to Spidrex and significantly increased in number over a 14 day period (p<0.05), as demonstrated by fluorescent calcein-AM staining and alamarBlue(®) assays. A similar growth pattern was observed with human tenocytes cultured on the B. mori scaffold. Morphologically, human tenocytes elongated along the silk fibers of Spidrex, assuming a tenocytic cell shape, and were less circular with a higher aspect ratio compared with human tenocytes cultured on the B. mori silk scaffold and within the collagen gel (p<0.05). Gene expression analysis by real-time PCR showed that rat tenocytes cultured on Spidrex had increased expression of tenocyte-related genes such as fibromodullin, scleraxis, and tenomodulin (p<0.05). Expression of genes that indicate transdifferentiation toward a chondrocytic or osteoblastic lineage were significantly lower in tenocytes cultured on Spidrex in comparison to the collagen gel (p<0.05). Immunogenicity assessment by the maturation of and cytokine release from primary human dendritic cells demonstrated that Spidrex enhanced dendritic cell maturation in a similar manner to the clinically used suture material Fiberwire, and significantly upregulated the release of proinflammatory cytokines (p<0.05). This suggests that Spidrex may induce an early immune response postimplantation. While further work is required to determine what effect this immune response has on the tendon healing process, our in vitro data suggests that Spidrex may have the cytocompatibility and bioactivity required to support tendon regeneration in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials / pharmacology
  • Cell Shape / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cell Transdifferentiation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chondrocytes / drug effects
  • Chondrocytes / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / drug effects
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Morus
  • Osteoblasts / drug effects
  • Osteoblasts / metabolism
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Regeneration* / drug effects
  • Silk / chemistry*
  • Tendons / cytology
  • Tendons / drug effects
  • Tendons / metabolism
  • Tendons / physiology*
  • Tissue Scaffolds / chemistry*


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Silk