Melbourne, Nov 19 : Spider and silkworm silks are among the strongest natural fibres in existence - and could hold the key to engineering healthy bone tissue and replacing damaged bone and teeth, says a leading researcher.
Professor David Kaplan from Tufts University in Massachusetts spoke at the Australian Health and Medical Research Congress in Brisbane.
"When you look at the mechanical properties of single fibre silks, they are remarkable in terms of tension and compression," ABC online quoted Kaplan, as saying.
Silk has the added advantage of being biocompatible, so it can be used in humans. He says it has already been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in early human clinical trials.
The researcher added that the silk is extremely stable, as it has to survive in the natural environment, and does not breakdown at high temperatures.
When it does eventually breakdown in the body, it is into harmless amino acids, he says.
Professor Kaplan and colleagues are looking at ways of using spider and silkworm silks to recreate bone matrix - the basic scaffolding of bone.
"We have learned how to make some pretty nice bone using silk as versatile protein-based matrix," Kaplan says.