Bioactive hierarchical silk fibers created by bioinspired self-assembly
journal contributionposted on 2021-01-01, 00:00 authored by Linpeng Fan, Jingliang LiJingliang Li, Zengxiao CaiZengxiao Cai, Xungai WangXungai Wang
Artificial recapitulation of the hierarchy of natural protein fibers is crucial to providing strategies for developing advanced fibrous materials. However, it is challenging due to the complexity of the natural environment. Inspired by the liquid crystalline spinning of spiders, we report the development of natural silk-like hierarchical fibers, with bundles of nanofibrils aligned in their long-axis direction, by self-assembly of crystallized silk fibroin (SF) droplets. The formation of self-assembled SF fibers is a process of coalesced droplets sprouting to form a branched fibrous network, which is similar to the development of capillaries in our body. The as-assembled hierarchical SF fibers are highly bioactive and can significantly enhance the spreading and growth of human umbilical vein endothelial cells compared to the natural SF fibers. This work could help to understand the natural silk spinning process of spiders and provides a strategy for design and development of advanced fibrous biomaterials for various applications.