Spider silk and 3D printing for the production of heart tissue
Spider silk is a natural, extremely resilient material that is well suited for use for medical purposes. Various areas of application have already been examined here in the past. In a current study, researchers from the Universities of Bayreuth and Erlangen now come to the conclusion that damaged spiders can be successfully "repaired" in the future thanks to spider silk.
In their experiments, the scientists laid the foundation for the artificial production of heart tissue using a special spider silk protein and 3D printing. Heart attack patients will soon have a real chance of recovering their damaged heart tissue, the Bayreuth University said. The researchers published the results of their study in the specialist magazine “Advanced Functional Materials”.
Heart failure so far incurable
The heart may, for example, be irreversibly impaired in its function after a surviving heart attack. The result is a weak heart. Around 1.8 million people in Germany suffer from such heart failure (heart failure), which is due to an irreversible loss of heart muscle cells due to heart disease, the researchers report, citing the figures from the German Heart Foundation. So far, there is no therapy that can reverse such damage to the cells.
Spider silk proteins the key to success?
The research team led by Professor Dr. Thomas Scheibel (biofabrication) from the University of Bayreuth and Professor Dr. Felix Engel (Experimental Kidney and Circulatory Research) from the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg investigated in his current study whether spider silk can be used to produce myocardial tissue. The key to the production of artificial heart tissue lies on certain proteins that give the silk its structure and mechanical strength, the so-called fibroins, the experts report.
Spider silk is well suited as a scaffolding material for heart tissue
Professor Dr. Engel had already discovered that the silk of the Indian silk spinner is particularly suitable as a scaffolding material for making heart tissue. But so far it has not been possible to produce the protein in sufficient quantity and consistent quality, reports the University of Bayreuth. Professor Dr. According to Thomas Scheibel and colleagues, however, "they succeeded in producing a recombined silk protein from garden spiders in larger quantities and with consistently high quality." Together, the researchers from Bayreuth and Erlangen therefore continued to investigate the possible uses of the proteins of cross spider silk.
Manufactured using 3D printing
Spider silk is an excellent material for so-called bio-ink, with which tissue-like structures can be produced in three-dimensional printing, the researchers report. The living cells of humans or animals used would generally remain functional, which opens up a wide range of possibilities in the production of artificial tissue. Jana Petzold from the Erlangen team and Tamara Aigner from the Bayreuth working group have therefore researched in more detail how the silk protein eADF4 (κ16) constructed in the laboratory can be used to produce heart tissue.
Function of the artificial heart muscle cells
The scientists applied a thin film of the silk protein to a glass slide, whereupon other cells (connective tissue cells or blood vessel cells) were placed, reports the University of Bayreuth. The function of the heart muscle cells was of particular interest. As part of the research, the researchers found that the factors responsible for hypertrophy (enlargement of cardiac muscle cells, for example in athletes or pregnant women) also lead to volume growth in the cardiac muscle cells grown on the eADF4 (κ16) film were. The function seems very similar here.
In view of the current examination results, the researchers were hopeful that the method based on artificial silk proteins and 3D printing could help many heart patients. “Working heart tissue can very soon be made artificially. The question now is when and how this will arrive in the clinic, ”concludes Professor Thomas Scheibel. (fp)