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Silk protein helps heal wounds, kill bacteria

A nanomaterial made of silver oxide nanoparticles and silk protein can speed up the healing of skin wounds, according to a new study1. This nanomaterial is also capable of killing disease-causing bacteria, making it a potential candidate for making antibacterial wound-dressing materials.

The healing of skin wounds is a complex process that involves interactions between various cells, extracellular components and certain growth-promoting proteins. Such wounds are always vulnerable to infections caused by deadly bacteria that have developed resistance to existing nanoparticle-based wound-dressing materials.

To devise a biocompatible wound-dressing material, scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, synthesised the nanomaterial by heating and drying a mixture of silver nitrate solution and a silk protein in a microwave oven. This process gave rise to a silver-oxide-nanoparticles-embedded silk protein.

The silk-based nanomaterial killed disease-causing bacteria more efficiently than ciprofloxacin, a widely used antibiotic. The silver nanoparticles probably formed pits on the bacterial cell membrane that eventually damaged the membrane structure and killed the bacteria.

The nanomaterial also healed an artificially created wound by accelerating the migration of specific cells that play vital roles in the wound-healing process. Besides, it is non-toxic to specific mice cells, showing its potential use in making biocompatible wound-dressing materials.



  1. Babu, P. J. et al. Silver oxide nanoparticles embedded silk fibroin spuns: microwave mediated preparation, characterization and their synergistic wound healing and anti-bacterial activity. J. Colloid Interf. Sci. 513, 62-71 (2018)

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