Synthetic silk biopolymer coatings may improve biocompatibility of medical implants

Chances are that you have heard of German company AMSilk (Planegg), which describes itself as the world’s first industrial supplier of synthetic silk biopolymers. It got quite a bit of attention in November 2016, when adidas introduced the Futurecraft Biofabric prototype athletic shoe partly made from Biosteel fiber developed by AMSilk. In addition to a unique combination of properties, the material is fully biodegradable: When the shoe owner decides its time for a new pair of kicks, he or she can expose them to an enzyme, also developed by AMSilk, and the material will decompose within a few hours. Now, the company is making news again, but this time the material has designs on the inside of the body.

AMSilk CEO Jens Klein
AMSilk CEO Jens Klein.

Earlier this year, AMSilk partnered with Polytech Health & Aesthetics GmbH (Dieburg, Germany), a manufacturer of soft-tissue silicone implants, to perform clinical studies of silk-coated breast implants. Announced at the end of February 2018, the POSIS study is underway in Austria and may be extended to other European countries.

This study marks the first time that bioengineered silk has been used inside the human body, according to the companies. The silk coating forms a thin, flexible physical protein interface between the silicone surface of the implant and surrounding tissue, explained AMSilk in a press release. The interface may improve biocompatibility of the device because the body recognizes the physical protein composing the coating as a natural surface. Consequently, SILKline breast implants may reduce postoperative complications and minimize sometimes painful side effects caused by traditional implants, according to Polytech.

AMSilk’s material mimics properties found in spider silk, such as incredible strength combined with flexibility. Speaking with Labiotech.eu, AMSilk CEO Jens Klein noted that the silk of the golden orb weaver spider is a hundred times tougher than current synthetic materials without sacrificing flexibility. AMSilk uses the same  building blocks as spider silk to make its products: “We are talking about a full-length protein consisting only of natural amino acids. There’s nothing else included in our proteins,” Klein told Labiotech.eu.

Klein anticipates many other medical applications for this unique material, which, in addition to being biocompatible, withstands sterilization.

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