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Pharm Res. 2011 Nov;28(11):2920-30. doi: 10.1007/s11095-011-0515-5. Epub 2011 Jun 30.

Time-correlated single photon counting for simultaneous monitoring of zinc oxide nanoparticles and NAD(P)H in intact and barrier-disrupted volunteer skin.

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  • 1Therapeutics Research Centre, School of Medicine Princess Alexandra Hospital, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.



There is a lack of relevant, non-animal alternatives for assessing exposure and toxicity of nanoparticle-containing cosmetics, e.g. sunscreens. Our goal was to evaluate timecorrelated single photon counting (TCSPC) for simultaneous monitoring of zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO-NP) and the metabolic state of volunteer skin.


We separated the fluorescence lifetime signatures of endogenous fluorophore signals (i.e. nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate, NAD(P)H and keratin) and the ZnO-NP signal using advanced TCSPC to simultaneously determine ZnO-NP penetration profiles and NAD(P)H changes in subjects with altered barrier function, including tape-stripped skin and in psoriasis or atopic dermatitis lesions.


We detected no ZnO-NP penetration into viable human skin in any group. ZnO-NP signal was significantly increased (p < 0.01) on the surface of tape-stripped and lesional skin after 4 and 2 h of treatment, respectively. Free NAD(P)H signal significantly increased in tape-stripped viable epidermis treated for 4 h of ZnO-NP compared to vehicle control. No significant NAD(P)H changes were noted in the lesional study.


TCSPC techniques enabled simultaneous, real-time quantification of ZnO-NP concentration and NAD(P)H via non-invasive imaging in the stratum corneum and viable epidermis of volunteers.

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