Silk particles, microfibres and nanofibres: A comparative study of their functions in 3D printing hydrogel scaffolds

Silk, with highly crystalline structure and well-documented biocompatibility, is promising to be used as reinforcing material and build functionalized composite scaffolds. In the present study, we developed chitosan/silk composite scaffolds using silk particles, silk microfibres and nanofibres via 3D printing method. The three forms of silk fillers with varied shapes and dimensions were obtained via different processing methods and evaluated of their morphology, crystalline structure and thermal property. All silk fillers showed different degrees of improvement on printability in terms of ink rheology and printing shape fidelity. Different silk fillers led to different scaffold surface morphology and different roughness, while all reduced the contact angle compared to pure chitosan. Similar reinforcements were observed on compressive modulus, while oscillatory gel strength reinforcement was found to be positively correlated to the filler aspect ratio. Addition of silk introduced no cytotoxicity for that all scaffolds supported a steady cell growth using human fibroblasts. Meanwhile different cellular behaviours were observed on different scaffold surfaces, which can possibly intriguer specific application on soft tissue engineering.