Research Highlight

Silk hydrogel helps heal severe burn wounds

doi:10.1038/nindia.2018.144 Published online 16 November 2018

The cellularised silk gel as skin graft.

© Mandal, B. et al

Researchers have prepared a silk-protein-based solution that, when applied on a skin wound, forms hydrogel. This hydrogel then helps regenerate skin cells, healing the wound1. The hydrogel is potentially useful for treating burn wounds.

Severe burn wounds that destroy the outer and inner layers of skin affect millions every year across the globe. Treatment options such as replacing damaged skin with artificial skin implants are tedious and expensive.

To find a simple and efficient therapy for burn injuries, scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology in Guwahati, India made the silk-protein-based solution by blending silk proteins isolated from two different silkworms.    

The researchers, led by Biman B Mandal, then explored the wound-healing potential of the silk solution in a rat bearing a burn wound. When applied on the wound site, the silk solution quickly converted itself into a hydrogel at body temperature. The hydrogel triggered a skin-regenerating process, healing the wound completely in three weeks.   

Besides being biodegradable, the gel has been found to aid the formation of new blood vessels that carry nutrients to skin cells that grow on the wound site. This, in turn, accelerates the skin regeneration and wound-healing processes.

The solution could also be used as an injectable gel that could easily take the shape of the wounds and fill irregular skin wounds and cavities.

In the future, the hydrogel could even deliver specific skin-forming cells, drugs, antibiotics and growth factors to burn wound sites, says Mandal. 






1. Chouhan, D. et al. In situ forming injectable silk fibroin hydrogel promotes skin regeneration in full thickness burn wounds. Adv. Healthcare. Mater. (2018) doi:10.1002/adhm.201801092