Congratulations to Georgia Petrou, who is leading author on our latest publication in Biomacromolecules. Genetically engineered mucoadhesive spider silk by Georgia Petrou, Ronnie Jansson, Mark Högqvist, Johan Erlandsson, Lars Wågberg, My Hedhammar, and Thomas Crouzier. The article is accessible via the publisher’s website (paywall) and on our website (green open access).

The work was initiated in 2017 by Mark Högqvist, a master student in the Master Biotechnology program at KTH in very close collaboration with the group of My Hedhammar (and in particular Ronnie Jansson). My and her group has developed an impressive platform technology that allows virtually any bio-functionalities to be included in silk materials by using recombinantly-produced engineered silk proteins.

The challenge in this work was to create a material that could combine the advantages of spider silk, which is strong, biocompatible, biodegradable, nontoxic and lightweight and be mucoadhesive. Such a mucoadhesive material could be used to develop mucosal wound dressings, and noninvasive transmucosal drug delivery systems.

We investigated two variants of the partial spider silk protein. A first variant functionalized with six positively charged charged lysines to bind to the negatively charged mucins electrostatically. And a second variant, containing the human Galectin-3 Carbohydrate Recognition Domain which specifically binds the glycans that are present in mucins. We showed that the coatings, the meshes, and the foams produced from these silk variants can bind strongly to mucins and could thus be used as a useful building block of functional mucoadhesive materials.

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