Spider silk protein could make terrific delivery device

Those of us who grew up with E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web" already know that spiders can teach us a thing or two -- especially when it comes to what they can weave in their webs. Well, we, their distant two-legged cousins, have been attempting to weave stronger materials based on the superior mechanical characteristics of spider silk fibers for a long time now. But, more recently other researchers are looking at how spider silk proteins can also also be used in submicroparticle form as possible drug carriers.

Writing in the journal Biomaterials, a group of German researchers created particles made of the engineered spider silk protein eADF4(C16) and showed that small molecules with positive net-charge can diffuse into the negatively charged spider silk protein. That means they can be used as drug delivery devices. Not only that, but the researchers found that they can achieve constant release up to two weeks at physiological conditions in vitro, with accelerated release rates within acidic environments.

"Along with their all-aqueous and easy preparation, drug loaded eADF4(C16) particles provide a high potential for diverse applications in which controlled release from biodegradable carriers is desired," the researchers write in their abstract. In other words, spider silk as drug-delivery devices could be, as Charlotte wrote in her web, "sensational."

- read the abstract in Biomaterials