Unique natural-protein hollow-nanofiber membranes produced by weaver ants for medical applications

Narendra Reddy, Helan Xu, Yiqi Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


We report the properties of unique natural-protein hollow-nanofiber membranes produced by weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) and the potential of using the nanofiber membranes for medical applications. Although natural proteins such as silk and collagen have been used to produce electrospun nanofibers for medical applications, there are no reports on producing hollow nanofibers from proteins. Hollow nanofibers are expected to have unique properties such as high drug loading. Weaver ant larvae extrude proteins in the form of nanofibers that are hollow and the adult ants build the nests using the hollow nanofibers. It was found that the nanofiber membranes are composed of fibers with average diameters of 450nm. The membranes have tensile strength of about 4MPa, high elongation of about 31% and modulus of 31MPa, better than any protein nanofiber membrane reported so far. The membranes withstand rigorous boiling in weak alkali, show good attachment and proliferation of osteoblasts and can load up to 4.7 times higher drugs compared to common silk. These features make ant nanofiber membranes unique and preferable for medical and biotechnology industries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1726-1733
Number of pages8
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Drug loading
  • Hollow
  • Nanofibers
  • Protein
  • Tissue engineering
  • Weaver ants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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