Stimuli-responsive materials are very attractive candidates for on-demand drug delivery applications. Precise control over therapeutic agents in a local area is particularly enticing to regulate the biological repair process and promote tissue regeneration. Macromolecular therapeutics are difficult to embed for delivery, and achieving controlled release over long-term periods, which is required for tissue repair and regeneration, is challenging. Biohybrid composites incorporating natural biopolymers and electroconductive/active moieties are emerging as functional materials to be used as coatings, implants or scaffolds in regenerative medicine. Here, we report the development of electroresponsive biohybrid composites based on Bombyx mori silkworm fibroin and reduced graphene oxide that are electrostatically loaded with a high-molecular-weight therapeutic (i.e., 26 kDa nerve growth factor-β (NGF-β)). NGF-β-loaded composite films were shown to control the release of the drug over a 10-day period in a pulsatile fashion upon the on/off application of an electrical stimulus. The results shown here pave the way for personalized and biologically responsive scaffolds, coatings and implantable devices to be used in neural tissue engineering applications, and could be translated to other electrically sensitive tissues as well.
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