Methacrylated silk fibroin hydrogels: pH as a tool to control functionality

Inês A. Barroso, Kenny Man, Victor M. Villapun, Sophie C. Cox, Anita K. Ghag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

246 Downloads (Pure)


The last decade has witnessed significant progress in the development of photosensitive polymers for in situ polymerization and 3D printing applications. Light-mediated sol–gel transitions have immense potential for tissue engineering applications as cell-laden materials can be crosslinked within minutes under mild environmental conditions. Silk fibroin (SF) is extensively explored in regenerative medicine applications due to its ease of modification and exceptional mechanical properties along with cytocompatibility. To efficiently design SF materials, the in vivo assembly of SF proteins must be considered. During SF biosynthesis, changes in pH, water content, and metal ion concentrations throughout the silkworm gland divisions drive the transition from liquid silk to its fiber form. Herein, we study the effect of the glycidyl-methacrylate-modified SF (SilkMA) solution pH on the properties and secondary structure of SilkMA hydrogels by testing formulations prepared at pH 5, 7, and 8. Our results demonstrate an influence of the prepolymer solution pH on the hydrogel rheological properties, compressive modulus, optical transmittance, and network swellability. The hydrogel pH did not affect the in vitro viability and morphology of human dermal fibroblasts. This work demonstrates the utility of the solution pH to tailor the SilkMA conformational structure development toward utility and function and shows the need to strictly control the pH to reduce batch-to-batch variability and ensure reproducibility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4779-4791
Number of pages13
JournalACS Biomaterial Science and Engineering
Issue number10
Early online date29 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2021


  • silk
  • methacrylated silk
  • pH
  • hydrogel
  • β-sheet
  • regenerative medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials


Dive into the research topics of 'Methacrylated silk fibroin hydrogels: pH as a tool to control functionality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this