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Fiorenzo Omenetto biomedical engineering research has silkworm 'collaborators' 

20 September 2010

SPIE Member Fiorenzo Omenetto, a professor of biomedical engineering and physics at Tufts Univ., is part of a group that has merged optics expertise with an unlikely collaborator for scientific breakthroughs: the silkworm.

Depending on how it is processed, silk can take on a variety of manifestations. It can be a fiber, a liquid, a sponge, or a gel; it can be poured into a mold and hardened as a solid plastic. In all these forms it is optically transparent. This is hard to tell from silk fabric, which has tightly woven fibers that tend to scatter light, but silk itself is clear, as anyone who has ever walked through an unseen spider web can confirm.

A range of novel silk-based technologies is already changing healthcare. Silk tissue scaffolds engineered by the Tufts group several years ago were the first of these technologies to receive FDA approval, under the name SeriScaffolds by a spin-off company called Serica Technologies. Last year Serica was bought by Allergan, a large pharmaceutical manufacturer, and their products have now hit the market. The scaffolds are made of spongy silk that has the look and feel of human tissue.

Read the full story in Seed Magazine.