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Toxicology. 2009 Jan 8;255(1-2):33-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2008.09.025. Epub 2008 Oct 9.

Human skin penetration of silver nanoparticles through intact and damaged skin.

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UCO Medicina del Lavoro, Dipartimento di Scienze di Medicina Pubblica, Università di Trieste, Via della Pietà 19, 34129 Trieste, Italy.


There is a growing interest on nanoparticle safety for topical use. The benefits of nanoparticles have been shown in several scientific fields, but little is known about their potential to penetrate the skin. This study aims at evaluating in vitro skin penetration of silver nanoparticles. Experiments were performed using the Franz diffusion cell method with intact and damaged human skin. Physiological solution was used as receiving phase and 70 microg/cm2 of silver nanoparticles coated with polyvinylpirrolidone dispersed in synthetic sweat were applied as donor phase to the outer surface of the skin for 24h. The receptor fluid measurements were performed by electro thermal atomic absorption spectroscopy (ETAAS). Human skin penetration was also determined by using transmission electron microscope (TEM) to verify the location of silver nanoparticles in exposed membranes. Median silver concentrations of 0.46 ng cm(-2) (range <LOD-2.23) and 2.32 ng cm(-2) (range 0.43-11.6) were found in the receiving solutions of cells where the nanoparticles solution was applied on intact skin (eight cells) and on damaged skin (eight cells), respectively. Twenty-four hours silver flux permeation in damaged skin was 0.62+/-0.2 ng cm(-2) with a lag time <1h. Our experimental data showed that silver nanoparticles absorption through intact and damaged skin was very low but detectable, and that in case of damaged skin it was possible an increasing permeation of silver applied as nanoparticles. Moreover, silver nanoparticles could be detected in the stratum corneum and the outermost surface of the epidermis by electron microscopy. We demonstrated for the first time that silver applied as nanoparticles coated with polyvinylpirrolidone is able to permeate the damaged skin in an in vitro diffusion cell system.

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