MAY 22, 2016 5:01 AM PDT

Silk-Coated Foods Stay Fresher, Longer

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Apart from providing luxury textiles, silk is an emerging biomaterial that's being incorporated into cutting-edge science and medicine. Specifically, researchers are interested in the protein fibroin that's extracted from silk. This protein provides the rigidity and strength that make silk so desirable. Fibroin has been previously exploited to increase the stability of some bioactive materials, like vaccines and antibiotics. Most recently, engineers at Tufts University showed that encapsulating blood in silk fibroin can stabilize the samples for months at high temperatures.

Inspired by these results, Tufts engineers are applying fibroin coating to foods in the hopes of slowing down decomposition. Similar to their results with blood samples, they say coating easily perishable foods like strawberries with fibroin made the fruit last longer. Fruits that ripen after harvest, like bananas, also showed similarly promising results. The team says this technology is completely biocompatible, meaning it's safe to eat; however the verdict is still out on whether silk-coated strawberries are as tasty as the non-coated version.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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