Follow for more talkers

Edible fluorescent tags made from silkworms could be used to detect fake medications

Avatar photo


(Dennis Jarvis via WikiCommons)

By Joe Morgan via SWNS

Edible fluorescent tags made from SILKWORMS could be used at home to detect fake medications.

With more people now ordering drugs and other medicines online, doctors fear that patients may be sent harmful pills that could send them to the hospital.

Online pharmacies have exploded with popularity and experts say this makes it easy for counterfeiters to profit from fake or tainted medication.

Researchers have invented fluorescent silk protein tags, which can be placed directly on pills or in a liquid medication, that can read whether the drugs are real or not.

The codes within the tags can be read with an app to verify the source and quality of the pharmaceuticals.


The researchers genetically modified the silkworms to produce an edible protein with either a cyan, green or red fluorescent protein attached.

They dissolved these silk cocoons to create polymer solutions, which they applied on a 9 millimeter-wide film of white silk.

Using filters on the app, the team could scan the pattern and decode a digitized key that can host information about the drug's source and authenticity.

The liquid medication was even readable with the app when the coded silk film was placed in a clear bottle of Scotch whisky, the researchers found.

Professor Seong Wan-Kim, at the Korea Institute of Maritime and Fisheries Technology, said: "We wanted to see whether silk, which is an edible and 'generally recognized as safe', material, could be placed directly onto medications and made to fluoresce, helping consumers make sure their purchases are what they claim to be.

"We showed the fluorescent silk proteins are broken down by gastrointestinal enzymes, suggesting that the silk codes are not only edible but also can be digested by the body.

"Placing these edible code appliqués onto pills or in liquid doses could empower patients and their care providers to avoid the unintentional consumption of fake treatments."

The study was published in the American Chemical Society journal Central Science.

Stories and infographics by ‘Talker Research’ are available to download & ready to use. Stories and videos by ‘Talker News’ are managed by SWNS. To license content for editorial or commercial use and to see the full scope of SWNS content, please email [email protected] or submit an inquiry via our contact form.

Top Talkers