Auto-fluorescence of a silk fibroin-based scaffold and its interference with fluorophores in labeled cells
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Silk fibroin is increasingly emerging as an important biomaterial for tissue engineering applications. The ability to fluorescently image silk matrices under a microscope would be helpful in differentiating embedded labeled cells from background signal, critical for the study of silk-based engineered tissues. In this study, we fabricated a scaffold using freeze drying and confirmed its structure by X-ray diffraction and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. We then examined the fluorescence of the silk fibroin scaffold using confocal microscopy, both before and after cell seeding and fluorescent labeling. We subsequently investigated the fluorescent signature of the silk fibroin scaffold chemically. Fluorophore-labeled cells seeded into the scaffold showed the same fluorescent color as the scaffold itself when excited by the same wavelength of light. UV–Vis and fluorescence spectroscopy of a silk fibroin solution indicated absorption and emission maxima at 277 and 345 nm, respectively, which is a typical protein-derived signal. HPLC and GC–MS were used to detect quercetin and quercetin derivatives, without success. We therefore conclude that unlike silk cocoons, the fluorescent behavior of silk fibroin scaffolds does not derive from quercetin and its derivatives but from the intrinsic fluorescence of fibroin protein. We also find that the fluorescent signals deriving from a scaffold and from labeled cells embedded in it can be distinguished when the different optical channels are merged.
KeywordsFluorescence Silk fibroin scaffold Fluorophore Cells Spectroscopy
The authors would like to thank Babol University of Medical Sciences and Arak University for supporting this research. Also special thanks to Dr. Ebrahim Zabihi, head of the Cell and Molecular Research Centre, for his assistance in providing us with an optimal environment to carry out this research.
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