Tufts researchers unveil programmable silk biopolymer


In Boston, Tufts University researchers have developed a new biopolymer from silk proteins that can be programmed to exhibit biological, chemical, or optical functions.

The technique involved manipulating silk fibroins with water-soluble molecules. Potential applications include surgical pins that can change color when mechanical limits are about to be reached; functional screws that could be created with infrared light; and a biocompatible material that could release bioactive agents like enzymes.

“The ability to embed functional elements in biopolymers, control their self-assembly, and modify their ultimate form creates significant opportunities for bio-inspired fabrication of high-performing multifunctional materials,” says senior study author Fiorenzo Omenetto, Professor at Tufts University.

The work was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Other work with silk fibroin includes a coating material for preserving fruit.