Research Highlight

Glowing antioxidant from tasar silk

doi:10.1038/nindia.2016.25 Published online 18 February 2016

Researchers have isolated a fluorescent silk material from tasar cocoons that can act as an antioxidant and its fluorescence can be used for bioimaging1. This fluorescent silk material will be potentially useful for imaging cellular anomalies and treating diseases that deplete the body’s antioxidant levels.

To explore the fluorescent properties, the researchers isolated material from tasar silk cocoons spun by the silk moth Antheraea mylitta. Using a nanocarrier-based technique, they then probed its bioimaging potential and antioxidant properties in cultured mice cardiac cells.

When incubated with the silk material, the cardiac cells’ cytoplasm showed intense green fluorescence which they attributed to the presence of the silk material. The fluorescent material spread in the cytoplasm without altering cell morphology and causing cell death.

The scientists found that the silk material protected the cells by neutralizing oxidative stress generated by reactive oxygen species such as hydrogen peroxide. They also found that this silk material prevented hydrogen-peroxide-induced cell death and boosted the levels of glutathione, an important antioxidant molecule of the body’s natural antioxidant defence system.   

“The fluorescent silk material could potentially be a safe alternative to commercially available fluorescent dyes used for bioimaging and could be added as antioxidant to tonics for therapeutic purposes,” says Sukant Khurana, one of the researchers.


1. Kusurkar, T. S. et al. A glowing antioxidant from tasar silk cocoon. RSC. Adv. 5, 104563-104573 (2015)