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Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2008;21(2):58-74. doi: 10.1159/000112956. Epub 2008 Jan 11.

Properties of ceramides and their impact on the stratum corneum structure. Part 2: stratum corneum lipid model systems.

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Institute of Pharmacy, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle-Saale, Germany.


The stratum corneum (SC) represents the outermost layer of the mammalian skin, exhibits the main skin barrier and plays an important role in the water penetration pathway through the SC. Knowing the structure and properties of the SC at the molecular level is essential for studying drug penetration through the SC and for the development of new dermal drug delivery systems. Therefore, research interest is focused on the SC lipid matrix and on water diffusion through it. Thus, the ultimate aim is to design a lipid mixture that mimics the barrier properties of the human SC to a high extent and that can substitute the SC in drug delivery systems. This review summarizes various studies performed on either isolated animal or human ceramide based SC model systems, coming to the result that using synthetic lipids with a well-defined architecture allows good extrapolation to the in vivo situation. This review is the continuation of part 1 that is focused on a detailed description of the thermotropic and/or lyotropic phase behaviour of single ceramide types obtained by various experimental techniques. The objective of part 2 is to reflect the numerous studies on SC lipid model systems, namely binary, ternary and multicomponent systems, during the last decade. In this context, neutron diffraction as a prospective tool for analyzing the internal membrane structure is addressed in particular. Based on these new insights, current SC models are presented, whose validations are still under discussion. A profound knowledge about SC lipid organization at the molecular level is still missing.

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