University of Connecticut researchers have created a new orthopedic material for fixing bones that’s made out of spider silk, itself one of the world’s strongest natural materials. While silk fibroin, the protein in silk that gives it strength, is already in use in sutures and other medical devices, this is the first time it was made into an extremely tough polymer composite.
The new material, a combination of silk and polylactic acid, a biocompatible plastic, has impressive mechanical characteristics that are siumilar to metal. But, since there’s no metal, there aren’t metal’s negative side effects such as potential for inflammation and bacterial colonization.
In tests the material showed resiliency and strength, and with more research there’s hope that the material will show an ability to readily integrate into the body and the body’s cells into itself.
Study in Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials: High performance resorbable composites for load-bearing bone fixation devices…