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Research Letters in Materials Science
Volume 2009, Article ID 147175, 5 pages
Research Letter

Characterizing Wool Keratin

Fats, Oils, and Animal Coproducts Research Unit, Wool Research, USDA ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, 600 East Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, PA 19038, USA

Received 12 January 2009; Accepted 11 May 2009

Academic Editor: Krystyn J. Van Vliet

Copyright © 2009 Jeanette M. Cardamone et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Keratin from wool is a reactive, biocompatible, and biodegradable material. As the biological structural component of skin (soft keratins) and of nails, claws, hair, horn, feathers, and scales (hard keratins) pure keratin comprises up to 90% by weight of wool. Wool was treated in alkaline solutions to extract from 68% to 82% keratin within 2 to 5 hours of exposure at 6 5 C . The keratin products were water-soluble and were confirmed to contain intermediate filament and microfibrillar component-proteins of fractured, residual cuticle, and cortical cells. Oxidation of wool by peroxycarboximidic acid in alkaline hydrogen peroxide produced keratin products with distinct microcrystalline structures: descaled fibers, fibrous matrices, and lyophilized powders. Morphology and confirmation of peptide functionality were documented by SEM, Amino Acid Analysis, SDS-PAGE gel electrophoresis, MALDI-TOF/TOF, and FTIR analyses. The reactivity of keratin from wool models the reactivity of keratin from low-value sources such as cattle hair.