‘Spider Silk’: A Substrate to Grow Cardiac Tissue

Spider silk (cobweb) is a protein fibre spun by spiders to make webs. Spiders use their silk as nests or as nets to catch other animals. Spidroin is the main protein in spiders’ silk with a primary structure made up of an amino acid sequence, mainly consisting of repeated glycine and alanine blocks.

Spidroin has outstanding mechanical properties with extreme lightness and durability: five times strength than steel, double elasticity than nylon, and a stretchability of 135% its original length without breaking. Its properties make it an excellent candidate to use in various scientific fields.

Spidroin is antimicrobial, nontoxic, does not hinder cell growth, has great cell adhesion properties and tolerated by human and animals. These huge biomedical potential inspired the researchers to use Spidroin in regenerative medicine, the cultivation of human organs and tissues.

Keeping these extraordinary properties of spidroin in mind, recently a group of researchers from the Laboratory of Biophysics of Excitable Systems at Moscow Institute for Physics and Technology (MIPT) used spidroin as a frame to cultivate fully functional cardiac tissues, able to contract and conduct excitation waves. They used spidroin substrate derived from genetically modified yeast cells to successfully grow cardiac cells, the cardiomyocytes on them. They seeded isolated neonatal rat cardiomyocytes on fibre matrices and monitored their growth, using a microscope and fluorescent markers. They also tested their contractibility and the ability to conduct electric impulses, the main features of normal cardiac tissue. They observed the formation of a layer of cells within 3 to 5 days on the substrate, able to contract synchronously and conduct electrical impulses very similar to a living heart tissue.

Use of these organic, environmentally friendly and biocompatible material like spider silk in regenerative is not new. However artificial spidroin fibre has been used as matrices to grow implants like bones, tendons and cartilages, as well as dressings.

The findings suggest that in near future we can expect to grow a replacement of a complete human heart on any sort of artificial scaffold.

Journal Reference:

Functional Analysis of the Engineered Cardiac Tissue Grown on Recombinant Spidroin Fiber Meshes. A. Teplenin, A. Krasheninnikova, N. Agladze, K. Sidoruk, O. Agapova, I. Agapov, V. Bogush, K. Agladze. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (3): e0121155 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0121155

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Arunima Maiti

Arunima Maiti

Biomedical scientist with special interest in reproductive biology.

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