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Preparation and characterization of biomimetic silk fibroin/chitosan composite nanofibers by electrospinning for osteoblasts culture

Jyh-Ping Chen*, Shih-Hsien Chen and Guo-Jyun Lai

Author Affiliations

Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Chang Gung University, Kwei-Shan, Tao-Yuan, Taiwan, 333, Republic of China

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2012, 7:170  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-7-170

Published: 6 March 2012


In this study, we have successfully fabricated electrospun bead-free silk fibroin [SF]/chitosan [CS] composite nanofibers [NFs] covering the whole range of CS content (0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%). SF/CS spinning solutions were prepared in a mixed solvent system of trifluoroacetic acid [TFA] and dichloromethane. The morphology of the NFs was observed by scanning electron microscope, and the average fiber diameter ranges from 215 to 478 nm. Confocal laser scanning microscopy confirms the uniform distribution of SF and CS within the composite NFs. To increase biocompatibility and preserve nanostructure when seeded with cells in culture medium, NFs were treated with an ethanol/ammonia aqueous solution to remove residual TFA and to change SF protein conformation. After the chemical treatment, SF/CS NFs could maintain the original structure for up to 54 days in culture medium. Properties of pristine and chemically treated SF/CS NFs were investigated by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy [FT-IR], X-ray diffraction [XRD], and thermogravimetry/differential scanning calorimetry [TG/DSC]. Shift of absorption peaks in FT-IR spectra confirms the conformation change of SF from random coil to β-sheet by the action of ethanol, which is also consistent with the SF crystalline diffraction patterns measured by XRD. From TG/DSC analysis, the decomposition temperature peaks due to salt formation from TFA and protonated amines disappeared after chemical treatment, indicating complete removal of TFA by binding with ammonium ions during the treatment. This was also confirmed with the disappearance of F1s peak in X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy spectra and disappearance of TFA salt peaks in FT-IR spectra. The composite NFs could support the growth and osteogenic differentiation of human fetal osteoblastic [hFOB] cells, but each component in the composite NF shows distinct effect on cell behavior. SF promotes hFOB proliferation while CS enhances hFOB differentiation. The composite SF/CS NFs will be suitable for bone tissue engineering applications by choosing a suitable blend composition.

PACS: 87.85.jf; 87.85.Rs; 68.37.Hk.

nanofibers; electrospinning; chitosan; silk fibroin; composite; osteoblastic cells