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Silk-based ocular implants: treating eye conditions at the interface of photonics and biology

Project description

Silk implants - a vision for millions

Silkworms produce a fibrous material to form their cocoons. The fibres have long been used to make silk fabrics for high-end clothing. More recently, the versatile protein polymers in the cocoons have been exploited for biomedical applications. In addition to biocompatibility, elasticity, and structural strength, silk fibroin offers transparency, permeability, and a refractive index that all make it particularly attractive for use in the eye. SILK-EYE is pioneering the development of the next generation of corneal implants and lenses exploiting these characteristics. The team plans to deliver more effective, safe, and affordable solutions to treat the increasing incidence of diseases and conditions affecting vision globally. Get ready for your next silk ensemble - scarf and accommodating lens.


Prevalent eye diseases, such as myopia, presbyopia, and corneal disease affect millions worldwide, but for now cannot be prevented. Surgical interventions of these conditions are turning to additive surgery, exemplified by corneal implants or the replacement of the natural crystalline lens by (or addition of) an intraocular lens, as it reduces complications of tissue removal surgeries.

Current eye treatments involving adding tissue or lenses exist in the form of amnion bandages, corneal inlays, and intraocular lenses. However, those approaches suffer from a number of shortcomings: corneal haze or rejection; risk of disease transmission, short lifespan, need of cryopreservation and donor tissue; lack of compliance of lens designs and biomaterials. In particular, no material has been found that fully meets the requirements for mechanical properties, transparency, biocompatibility and versatility for applications in the cornea and in accommodating intraocular lenses.

In recent years, silk fibroin derived from silkworm cocoons has emerged as a protein polymer for biomaterial applications. SILK-EYE will develop a new generation of corneal and intraocular implants, using silk-based materials tuned to each specific application and light enabling procedure. The silk-based implants will feature both the accessibility advantages of synthetic materials and the structural and biocompatibility properties of allografts, capitalizing on silk’s unique potential for transparency, controllable stiffness and degradability, refractive index and permeability, and their potential for light-induced cross-linking and bonding in the eye. SILK-EYE will design radically novel corneal dressings and implants, and accommodating intraocular lenses that are more biocompatible and functional than current synthetic implants, and are safer, more tunable, accessible and affordable than donor allografts, potentially revolutionizing how the major corrective procedures in ophthalmology are performed.


Net EU contribution
€ 2 282 929,65
Calle serrano 117
28006 Madrid

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Comunidad de Madrid Comunidad de Madrid Madrid
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (2)