Research Highlight

Silk-based mats for treating arthritis

doi:10.1038/nindia.2017.89 Published online 24 July 2017

Researchers have synthesised mats that mimic natural cartilage-bone interface and can be used to grow cartilage and bone cells1. These could be implanted to repair worn-out joints in arthritis sufferers.

Ageing, a sedentary lifestyle and sports-related injuries often damage bone joints, breaking down cartilage and diminishing bone cells. If left untreated this can cause pain and swelling, eventually leading to osteoarthritis.

To find a way to heal bone joints, scientists led by Biman Mandal from the Indian Institute of Technology in Guwahati, India and University College London, produced the bilayer composite mats by using silk protein fibroin and ceramic-based bioactive glass. After two weeks of culture they tested their efficiency as scaffolds for regenerating specific animal-derived cartilage and human bone cells.

The mats adsorbed specific proteins that regulated the cell-matrix interaction, accelerating the growth of the bone and cartilage cells. Biochemical analyses revealed the expression of genes and proteins specific to these cells. When cultured with specific animal-derived immune cells, the mats didn’t induce any adverse immune responses, indicating biocompatibility.

“The composite mats are a potential candidate as green materials to repair bone defects caused by osteoarthritis,” says Mandal.


1. M, J. C. et al. Mimicking hierarchical complexity of the osteochondral interface using electrospun silkbioactive glass composites. ACS. Appl. Mater. Interfaces. 9, 8000-8013 (2017)