Silk Micrococoons Advancing Biotechnology and Medicine
According to a recent study by scientists at the University of Cambridge, published in July 2017, silkworm spun cocoons possess the ability to transform the areas of food science, biotechnology and medicine.
Microscopic versions of cocoons were created by researchers. They made capsules using a specially developed microengineering process. The way Bombyx mori silkworms spin their cocoons to harvest natural silk, the capsules were processed in a similar manner. The microscale capsules produced from this process comprise of nano-fibrils which are tough shells of silk surrounding and protecting the liquid cargo, these capsules are a thousand times smaller than those created by silkworms.
These micrococoons have the potential to protect sensitive molecules that are healthy and nutritionally beneficial, however these qualities are often lost and degraded during storage and processing. This problem is resolved by safely sealing these molecules in a layer of silk. Silk micrococoons prove to be beneficial by protecting these molecules in various food and cosmetic products.
The same technology could benefit the pharmaceuticals industry in treating a wide range of illnesses. This study shows that silk micrococoons can increase the life-span and stability of antibodies acting on proteins associated to neurodegenerative illnesses.
Researchers explained the advantages of silk, saying that is easy to produce, biodegradable and requires less energy to manufacture. Silk being a natural structural material, can be stored as a liquid, yet transforms into a solid on being spun. This state is achieved by the silkworm, by stretching the silk proteins down a microscopic tube.
Researchers, with an attempt to imitate this process, created a tiny, artificial spinning duct in which the unspun silk would achieve solidity. They then controlled its geometry to create microscopic shells.
These silk micrococoons could also be designed with dissolvable walls, enabling new treatments against cancer and mainly neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases.
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