Hydrogels are an attractive class of tunable material platforms that, combined with their structural and functional likeness to biological environments, have a diversity of applications in bioengineering. Several polymers, natural and synthetic, can be used, the material selection being based on the required functional characteristics of the prepared hydrogels. Silk fibroin (SF) is an attractive natural polymer for its excellent processability, biocompatibility, controlled degradation, mechanical properties and tunable formats and a good candidate for the fabrication of hydrogels. Tremendous effort has been made to control the structural and functional characteristic of silk hydrogels, integrating novel biological features with advanced processing techniques, to develop the next generation of functional SF hydrogels. Here, we review the several processing methods developed to prepare advanced SF hydrogel formats, emphasizing a bottom-up approach beginning with critical structural characteristics of silk proteins and their behavior under specific gelation environments. Additionally, the preparation of SF hydrogel blends and other advanced formats will also be discussed. We conclude with a brief description of the attractive utility of SF hydrogels in relevant bioengineering applications.
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