Research Highlight

Artificial skin from spider silk protein

doi:10.1038/nindia.2018.94 Published online 28 July 2018

The dressing mat and porous sponge can heal or substitute human skin.
Using a combination of spider silk protein and silkworm silk protein, researchers have synthesised nanofibrous mats and porous sponges1. The mats can help heal skin wounds and the sponges can generate skin grafts, a substitute for human skin.

Diabetic foot ulcers and pressure sores lead to irreversible skin damage that requires expensive skin-regenerating treatments. These treatments cannot efficiently kill bacteria that invade skin wounds. This delays the wound healing, severely disrupting the skin-regenerating process.

Scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology in Guwahati, India, and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, led by Biman B. Mandal, prepared the mats with a top coat of spider-silk protein, antimicrobial peptides, a cell-binding agent and a growth factor.

The mats increased the adhesion and proliferation of specific human skin cells. When exposed to two  skin-wound-infecting bacteria, the mats inhibited their growth.

Scientists Biman Mandal (left) and Dimple Chouhan
The mats show potential to heal skin wounds, but they cannot replace lost skin. To make skin grafts that can mimic the structure and functions of human skin, the researchers made the porous sponges using silkworm-silk protein and spider-silk protein. When cultured with specific human skin cells, the sponges formed bilayer skin grafts in three weeks.

“The skin grafts, made of biodegradable silk proteins, can be surgically implanted at a wound site,” says Mandal.  They can also be used for screening drugs at a more affordable cost, he adds.


1. Chouhan, D. et al. Recombinant spider silk functionalized silkworm silk matrices as potential bioactive wound dressings and skin grafts. ACS. Appl. Mater. Interfaces. (2018) doi: 10.1021/acsami.8b05853