Development of electrically conductive porous silk fibroin/carbon nanofiber scaffolds

Tufan Y., Öztatlı H., Garipcan B., Ercan B.

BIOMEDICAL MATERIALS, vol.16, no.2, 2021 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 16 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1088/1748-605x/abc3db
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Chemical Abstracts Core, Compendex, EMBASE, INSPEC, MEDLINE, Metadex
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Tissue engineering applications typically require three-dimensional scaffolds which provide the requisite surface area for cellular functions, while allowing transport of nutrients, waste and oxygen to and from the surrounding tissues. Scaffolds need to ensure sufficient mechanical properties to provide mechanically stable frameworks under physiologically relevant stress levels. Meanwhile, electrically conductive platforms are also desirable for the regeneration of specific tissues, where electrical impulses are transmitted throughout the tissue for proper physiological functioning. Towards this goal, carbon nanofibers (CNFs) were incorporated into silk fibroin (SF) scaffolds whose pore size and porosity were controlled during a salt leaching process. In our methodology, CNFs were dispersed in SF due to the hydrogen bond-forming ability of hexafluoro-2-propanol, a fluoroalcohol used as a solvent for SF. Results showed enhanced electrical conductivity and mechanical properties upon the incorporation of CNFs into the SF scaffolds, while the metabolic activities of cells cultured on SF/CNF nanocomposite scaffolds were significantly improved by optimizing the CNF content, porosity and pore size range of the scaffolds. Specifically, SF/CNF nanocomposite scaffolds with electrical conductivities as high as 0.023 S cm(-1), tangent modulus values of 260 +/- 30 kPa, a porosity as high as 78% and a pore size of 376 +/- 53 mu m were fabricated for the first time in the literature. Furthermore, an increase of about 34% in the wettability of SF was achieved by the incorporation of 10% CNF, which provided enhanced fibroblast spreading on scaffold surfaces.