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Issue 9, 2012
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Direct visualization of shear dependent silk fibrillogenesis

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Silk's desirable properties originate from the development of a multiscale hierarchical structure produced during spinning, but little is known regarding the origin of the micro and nano fibrils that are consistent and prominent features of spun fibres. This raises the important question: can shearing alone generate these filaments, or is further input and control by the physiology/morphology of the silk duct required? Combining confocal microscopy with rheology provides unique insights into the direct connection between applied shear and the fibrillation of silk proteins in as close to in vivo conditions as currently possible. Our measurements demonstrate that unlike typical synthetic polymers, native silk proteins are able to spontaneously self-assemble, fibrillate and develop hierarchical structures upon controlled shearing, and that the shear induced fibrilogenesis is accompanied by dramatic changes in the rheological response. These observations suggest that natural spinning may be far less complex than previously assumed.

Graphical abstract: Direct visualization of shear dependent silk fibrillogenesis

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Publication details

The article was received on 03 Oct 2011, accepted on 01 Dec 2011 and first published on 16 Dec 2011

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C2SM06886A
Soft Matter, 2012,8, 2590-2594

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    Direct visualization of shear dependent silk fibrillogenesis

    C. Holland, J. S. Urbach and D. L. Blair, Soft Matter, 2012, 8, 2590
    DOI: 10.1039/C2SM06886A

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