Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Silk fibroin safety in the eye: a review that highlights a concern
  1. Peter W Madden1,2,
  2. Igor Klyubin3,4,
  3. Mark J Ahearne1,2
  1. 1Trinity Centre for Biomedical Engineering, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  2. 2Department of Mechanical, Manufacturing and Biomedical Engineering, School of Engineering, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  3. 3Department of Pharmacology Therapeutics, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  4. 4Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Peter W Madden; pemadden{at}


The biomedical use of silk as a suture dates back to antiquity. Fibroin is the structural element that determines the strength of silk and here we consider the safety of fibroin in its role in ophthalmology. The high mechanical strength of silk meant sufficiently thin threads could be made for eye microsurgery, but such usage was all but superseded by synthetic polymer sutures, primarily because silk in its entirety was more inflammatory. Significant immunological response can normally be avoided by careful manufacturing to provide high purity fibroin, and it has been utilised in this form for tissue engineering an array of fibre and film substrata deployed in research with cells of the eye. Films of fibroin can also be made transparent, which is a required property in the visual pathway. Transparent layers of corneal epithelial, stromal and endothelial cells have all been demonstrated with maintenance of phenotype, as have constructs supporting retinal cells. Fibroin has a lack of demonstrable infectious agent transfer, an ability to be sterilised and prepared with minimal contamination, long-term predictable degradation and low direct cytotoxicity. However, there remains a known ability to be involved in amyloid formation and potential amyloidosis which, without further examination, is enough to currently question whether fibroin should be employed in the eye given its innervation into the brain.

  • experimental & laboratory
  • treatment other
  • treatment surgery

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Contributors PWM conceived and planned the study, researched the field and wrote the manuscript draft. IK reviewed the manuscript and wrote sections of the manuscript. MJA supervised the study and reviewed and amended the manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 637460) and from Science Foundation Ireland (15/ERC/3269).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.