Bioinspired silk fibroin-based composite grafts as bone tunnel fillers for anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

Viviana P. Ribeiro*, João B. Costa*, Sofia M. Carneiro*, Sandra Pina*, Ana C. A. Veloso*, Rui L. Reis*, Joaquim M. Oliveira*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) replacement is still a big challenge in orthopedics due to the need to develop bioinspired implants that can mimic the complexity of bone-ligament interface. In this study, we propose biomimetic composite tubular grafts (CTGs) made of horseradish peroxidase (HRP)-cross-linked silk fibroin (SF) hydrogels containing ZnSr-doped β-tricalcium phosphate (ZnSr-β-TCP) particles, as promising bone tunnel fillers to be used in ACL grafts (ACLGs) implantation. For comparative purposes, plain HRP-cross-linked SF hydrogels (PTGs) were fabricated. Sonication and freeze-drying methodologies capable of inducing crystalline β-sheet conformation were carried out to produce both the CTGs and PTGs. A homogeneous microstructure was achieved from microporous to nanoporous scales. The mechanical properties were dependent on the inorganic powder’s incorporation, with a superior tensile modulus observed on the CTGs (12.05 ± 1.03 MPa) as compared to the PTGs (5.30 ± 0.93 MPa). The CTGs presented adequate swelling properties to fill the space in the bone structure after bone tunnel enlargement and provide a stable degradation profile under low concentration of protease XIV. The in vitro studies revealed that SaOs-2 cells adhered, proliferated and remained viable when cultured into the CTGs. In addition, the bioactive CTGs supported the osteogenic activity of cells in terms of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) production, activity, and relative gene expression of osteogenic-related markers. Therefore, this study is the first evidence that the developed CTGs hold adequate structural, chemical, and biological properties to be used as bone tunnel fillers capable of connecting to the ACL tissue while stimulating bone tissue regeneration for a faster osteointegration.
Original languageEnglish
Article number697
Number of pages22
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Anterior cruciate ligament
  • Tissue engineering
  • Silk fibroin
  • Osteointegration


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