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Research: Silk Preserves Heat-Sensitive Drugs for Months Without Refrigeration

Silk protein in a vial. Silk worm cocoons are boiled as part of the process of extracting the protein. (Tufts University)
New research suggests silk can provide a strong protective layer around medicines, eliminating the need to refrigerate them along lengthy global delivery routes. Most vaccines and other drugs must be kept cold, and currently, nearly half lose potency because of refrigeration glitches between the manufacturer and recipient.

Using silk made from silkworm cocoons and sold by regular textile vendors, the Tufts University-based research team broke the silk down into a solution of proteins and water added a medicine and then poured the mixture into a mold to dry. The silk-stabilized medicines can be designed to act as both storage and delivery devices, that last for months and maybe even years at temperatures above 43 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Farenheit).

Bruce Panilaitis, co-author of the study published this week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says his team has yet to find a drug that can't be preserved with the silk process.