Silk implants for the healing of critical size bone defects

Lorenz Meinel, Robert Fajardo, Sandra Hofmann, Robert Langer, Jake Chen, Brian Snyder, Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, David Kaplan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

379 Scopus citations


Bone (re)-generation and bone fixation strategies utilize biomaterial implants, which are gradually replaced by autologous tissues. Ideally, these biomaterials should be biodegradable, osteoconductive, and provide mechanical strength and integrity until newly formed host tissues can maintain function. Some protein-based biomaterials such as collagens are promising because of their biological similarities to natural proteins on bone surfaces. However, their use as bone implant materials is largely hampered by poor mechanical properties. In contrast, silks offer distinguishing mechanical properties that are tailorable, along with slow degradability to permit adequate time for remodeling. To assess the suitability of silk-based biomaterials as implants for bone healing, we explored the use of novel porous silk fibroin scaffolds as templates for the engineering of bone tissues starting from human bone marrow derived stem cells cultured under osteogenic conditions for up to 5 weeks. The slowly degrading protein matrix permitted adequate temporal control of hydroxyapatite deposition and resulted in the formation of a trabecular-like bone matrix in bioreactor studies. The organic and inorganic components of the engineered bone tissues resembled those of bone, as shown by gene expression analysis, biochemical assays, and X-ray diffractometry. Implantation of the tissue-engineered bone implants (grown in bioreactors for 5 weeks prior to implantation) into calvarial critical size defects in mice demonstrated the capacity of these systems to induce advanced bone formation within 5 weeks, whereas the implantation of stem cell loaded silk scaffolds, and scaffolds alone resulted in less bone formation. These results demonstrate the feasibility of silk-based implants with engineered bone for the (re-)generation of bone tissues and expand the class of protein-based bone-implant materials with a mechanically stable and durable option.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)688-698
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Bone
  • Calvarial
  • Cranium
  • Fibroin
  • Silk
  • Stem cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Histology
  • Physiology


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