Case Studies

Enhancing Drug Delivery Systems with Thai Silk: An Innovation in Healthcare

In the present healthcare industry, a wide array of drugs, molecules, and stem cells have gained approval for treating various diseases. However, the effectiveness of the treatments is hindered by many limitations. The objective of our research project is to harness the potential of Thai silk as a medical material to develop an innovative drug delivery system, serving as vesicles that encapsulate drugs in various formulations, with the primary goal of controlling drug release at specific treatment times, delivering drugs with minimal side effects, and reducing the frequency of drug administration. “Silk fibroin”, a main protein of silk offers a wealth of advantages for this purpose including biocompatibility, biodegradability, minimal immunogenicity, and adaptability to versatile formulations.

Our research covers a comprehensive spectrum of processes, including up-stream, mid-stream, and down-stream phases. In the up-stream process, we concentrate on advancing the practice of organic sericulture, which involves the cultivation of silk under carefully controlled environmental conditions. The sericulture process and cocoon products are certified in accordance with the “Thai Agricultural Standard”. This innovative silk farming process is novel, season-independent, scalable, and elevates the sericulture industry in Thailand.

The mid-stream process involves extracting silk fibroin protein from the cocoons in a GMP process, certified by ISO13485 for Medical Devices. The silk fibroin solution has passes biocompatibility testing, certified by ISO10993 standards. The silk fibroin solution is currently in the process of FDA registration as a medical device, which will enable its use in medical application.

In the downstream process, silk fibroin serves as raw material for formulating various drug delivery systems tailored to specific needs. Animal and clinical trials have confirmed the efficacy of silk fibroin. For instance, a platelet-rich plasma (PRP)-encapsulated silk fibroin hydrogel can be applied as an injectable treatment for osteoarthritis. Silk fibroin can act as a vaccine adjuvant, eliciting a stronger and longer-lasting immunogenic response. Silk fibroin hydrogel accelerates wound healing. Furthermore, a silk fibroin transdermal patch enhances skin absorption and prolongs the effect of cannabidiol in the treatment of insomnia. The primary challenges of this research are quality control, scaling up of the process and the development of customized formulations for each specific application. Silk fibroin serves as a versatile vesicle platform, capable of combining with various drugs, cells, and molecules, resulting in enhanced therapeutic efficacy and prolonged effects through multidisciplinary expertise in engineering, science, biology, and pharmaceutics.

This research brings substantial benefits to society by innovatively utilizing locally produced materials, transitioning Thai silk from the textile to the medical sector. The increased value of Thai silk and enhanced income for farmers are achievable outcomes. The innovative drug delivery system developed using Thai silk fibroin represents advanced therapeutic medicine for treating a multitude of diseases. The developed silk fibroin platform has the potential to be applied to a wide range of drugs or cells for the treatment of various diseases, not only in humans but also in pets and livestock.


Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University

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