The Use of Silk as a Scaffold for Mature, Sustainable Unilocular Adipose 3D Tissue Engineered Systems

Adv Healthc Mater. 2016 Jul;5(13):1667-77. doi: 10.1002/adhm.201600211. Epub 2016 May 19.


There is a critical need for monitoring physiologically relevant, sustainable, human adipose tissues in vitro to gain new insights into metabolic diseases. To support long-term culture, a 3D silk scaffold assisted culture system is developed that maintains mature unilocular adipocytes ex vivo in coculture with preadipocytes, endothelial cells, and smooth muscle cells obtained from small volumes of liquefied adipose samples. Without the silk scaffold, adipose tissue explants cannot be sustained in long-term culture (3 months) due to their fragility. Adjustments to media components are used to tune lipid metabolism and proliferation, in addition to responsiveness to an inflammatory stimulus. Interestingly, patient specific responses to TNFα stimulation are observed, providing a proof-of-concept translational technique for patient specific disease modeling in the future. In summary, this novel 3D scaffold assisted approach is required for establishing physiologically relevant, sustainable, human adipose tissue systems from small volumes of lipoaspirate, making this methodology of great value to studies of metabolism, adipokine-driven diseases, and other diseases where the roles of adipocytes are only now becoming uncovered.

Keywords: adipose; explant; patient specific approach; tissue engineering; unilocular morphology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology
  • Adipocytes / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Bombyx
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / cytology
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / metabolism*
  • Silk / chemistry*
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*
  • Tissue Scaffolds / chemistry*


  • Silk