Research Highlight

Silk route for cancer

doi:10.1038/nindia.2009.271 Published online 13 August 2009

Nanoparticles designed from silk protein could ferry anti-cancer drug more effectively to target cancer cells1. Researchers have produced the nanoparticles from sericin, a protein isolated from non-mulberry tropical tasar silk cocoons.

Silk protein shows promise as an alternative natural biomaterial to make nanopartciles that can deliver anti-cancer drugs. Self-assembled nanoparticles have gained importance in tissue engineering for targeted drug delivery applications. Silk sericin protein has already shown promise in bone growth.

To find out whether it can deliver drugs, the researchers made nanoparticles by blending sericin with organic compounds. They checked whether these nanoparticles could deliver the anti-cancer drug paclitaxel (water-hating) and FITC-inulin (a water-loving conjugated compound used to monitor kidney condition) to cultured breast cancer cells.

The drug-loaded nanoparticles were found to induce controlled death in breast cancer cells. The study showed that the nanoparticles increased the level of an enzyme that helps controlled death of cancer cells.


  1. Mandal, B. B. et al. Self-assembled silk sericin/poloxamer nanoparticles as nanocarriers of hydrophobic and hydrophilic drugs for targeted delivery. Nanotechnology 20, 355101 (2009) | Article | PubMed |