E-spun composite fibers of collagen and dragline silk protein: Fiber mechanics, biocompatibility, and application in stem cell differentiation

Bofan Zhu, Wen Li, Randolph V. Lewis, Carlo U. Segre, Rong Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Biocomposite matrices with high mechanical strength, high stability, and the ability to direct matrix-specific stem cell differentiation are essential for the reconstruction of lesioned tissues in tissue engineering and cell therapeutics. Toward this end, we used the electrospinning technique to fabricate well-aligned composite fibers from collagen and spider dragline silk protein, obtained from the milk of transgenic goats, mimicking the native extracellular matrix (ECM) on a similar scale. Collagen and the dragline silk proteins were found to mix homogeneously at all ratios in the electrospun (E-spun) fibers. As a result, the ultimate tensile strength and elasticity of the fibers increased monotonically with silk percentage, whereas the stretchability was slightly reduced. Strikingly, we found that the incorporation of silk proteins to collagen dramatically increased the matrix stability against excessive fiber swelling and shape deformation in cell culture medium. When human decidua parietalis placental stem cells (hdpPSCs) were seeded on the collagen-silk matrices, the matrices were found to support cell proliferation at a similar rate as that of the pure collagen matrix, but they provided cell adhesion with reduced strengths and induced cell polarization at varied levels. Matrices containing 15 and 30 wt % silk in collagen (CS15, CS30) were found to induce a level of neural differentiation comparable to that of pure collagen. In particular, CS15 matrix induced the highest extent of cell polarization and promoted the development of extended 1D neural fi laments strictly in-line with the aligned fibers. Taking the increased mechanical strength and fiber stability into consideration, CS15 and CS30 E-spun fibers offer better alternatives to pure collagen fibers as scaffolds that can be potentially utilized in neural tissue repair and the development of future nanobiodevices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-213
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - 12 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


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