An investigation into silk fibroin for diverse wound healing applications

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2023
Thesis identifier
  • T16740
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201773114
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Wound healing is typically defined by a cascade of events which include haemostasis, inflammation, proliferation, and remodelling. Several factors can influence these stages of wound healing, potentially prolonging them and causing the wound to become a chronic wound. Inflammation can be prolonged by the presence of microbial pathogens. Silk is a versatile biomaterial that has been used in healthcare in various formats such as sutures and meshes but has recently gained FDA approval for the first regenerated silk material for use as an injectable medical therapy. Therefore, the aim of this thesis was to investigate the potential further uses of silk fibroin in a wound care setting in the format of hydrogels, aqueous solution, and films. First, silk hydrogels were made by two methods to tune the crystallinity and the subsequent release in PBS was monitored over 72 hours. Significantly more silk fibroin leached from hydrogels with an amorphous silk fibroin structure than with a beta sheet–rich silk fibroin structure, although all hydrogels leached silk fibroin. The leached silk was biologically active, as it induced vitro chemokinesis and faster scratch assay wound healing by activating receptor tyrosine kinases (Chapter 2). Next, the antimicrobial activity of silk fibroin was investigated with two wound pathogens. Silk fibroin solutions containing ≥ 4% w/v silk fibroin did not support the growth of two common wound pathogens, Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa). When liquid silk was added to a wound pad and placed on inoculated culture plates mimicking wound fluid, silk was bacteriostatic. Viability tests of the bacterial cells in the presence of liquid silk showed that cells remained intact within the silk but could not be cultured (Chapter 3). Finally, the ability of silk films to be used as a versatile sensor was investigated. Silk films and hydrogels could adapt a micropatterned surface after casting on PDMS and this was retained after crystallisation of the films. Films could also be loaded with natural dyes, folded into origami canoes and were able to sense and react to a change in the environmental pH and contaminants in water (Chapter 4). Overall, this thesis explores the impact silk fibroin could have on the key elements of wound healing and the future work needed to validate this further (Chapter 5).
Advisor / supervisor
  • Seib, Philipp
  • Connolly, Patricia
Resource Type