A comparative study of materials assembled from recombinant K31 and K81 and extracted human hair keratins

Rachael N. Parker, Alexis Trent, Kristina L.Roth Stefaniak, Mark E. Van Dyke, Tijana Z. Grove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Natural biopolymers have found success in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications. Their intrinsic biocompatibility and biological activity make them well suited for biomaterials development. Specifically, keratin-based biomaterials have demonstrated utility in regenerative medicine applications including bone regeneration, wound healing, and nerve regeneration. However, studies of structure-function relationships in keratin biomaterials have been hindered by the lack of homogeneous preparations of materials extracted and isolated from natural sources such as wool and hair fibers. Here we present a side-by-side comparison of natural and recombinant human hair keratin proteins K31 and K81. When combined, the recombinant proteins (i.e. rhK31 and rhK81) assemble into characteristic intermediate filament-like fibers. Coatings made from natural and recombinant dimers were compared side-by-side and investigated for coating characteristics and cell adhesion. In comparison to control substrates, the recombinant keratin materials show a higher propensity for inducing involucrin and hence, maturation in terms of potential skin cell differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number065006
JournalBiomedical Materials (Bristol)
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomaterials
  • Biomimetic coating
  • Human hair keratin
  • Recombinant protein
  • Self-assembly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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