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A Softer Approach to Stabilizing Blood Samples

by Dennis Ernst • January 05, 2017


Tufts University researchers have found a new use for silk: stabilizing blood samples. 

Long known for its softness and strength, silk has been around as long as there have been silkworm moths. Scientists have known the protein in silk, fibroin, is effective in stabilizing antibiotics and vaccines, but Tuft's researchers only recently tested its usefulness in stabilizing blood samples. The results suggest silk could change the way blood samples for laboratory testing is collected and stored.

Tufts engineers mixed plasma from centrifuged samples with a powder of purified fibroin extracted from silk. They then air-dried the plasma and stored it between 22 and 45 degrees Celsius (71.6 to 1130F), rehydrating and testing portions of the stored plasma periodically. Some biomarkers were successfully analyzed after 84 days of storage at 1130F.

These results show silk provides better protection for some tests that require transportation over long distances in harsh environments than the traditional approach of dried spots on paper. Much work remains before applying the properties of silk to large-scale laboratory testing, but the potential for transforming how blood is collected and stored is enormous, and especially beneficial in rural settings without electricity and refrigeration, or where traditional laboratory storage environments are unreliable.

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