Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur have successfully fabricated nanoparticles using silk sericin, a protein isolated from Indian non-mulberry tropical tasar silk cocoons. The nanoparticles were shown to effectively carry both hydrophilic and hydrophobic drugs spatially separated in their silk/pluronic micellar structures.

As reported in the journal Nanotechnology, the scientists used micellar self assembly method to fabricate, entrap and deliver model drug molecules using sericin nanoparticles. Successful loading of both hydrophilic (Inulin-FITC) and hydrophobic (paclitaxel) drugs was achieved, making these nanoparticles unique and a potential universal drug carrier.

The particles are stable in aqueous solution and their effective small size leads to rapid uptake by cells to achieve faster and prolonged delivery of drugs to the target site, as demonstrated by confocal microscopy. Annexin V staining and Western blot analysis of expressed proteins further confirms the affectivity of delivered anticancer drugs by inducing apoptosis and death of cancer cells.

The study reveals a new dimension to the natural glue protein silk sericin, which shows great potential as an alternative biopolymer to cater for the needs of tissue engineering by virtue of its abundance, low cost, ease of processing and biocompatibility.

About the author

Biman B. Mandal studied his PhD under the supervision of Professor S. C. Kundu at the Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, India. He is currently pursuing postdoctoral research with Professor David Kaplan at Tufts University, US. Professor S. C. Kundu is the first head of the Department of Biotechnology, (IIT) Kharagpur, India. His research interests include the investigation of silk proteins for cell based tissue engineering applications such as drug delivery and stem cell differentiation.

The work was funded by the Department of Biotechnology and the Council of Scientific Industrial Research, Government of India, New Delhi, India; IIT Kharagpur and EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland Programme.