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Toxicol Sci. 2009 Sep;111(1):37-48. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfp139. Epub 2009 Jul 2.

Quantitative determination of skin penetration of PEG-coated CdSe quantum dots in dermabraded but not intact SKH-1 hairless mouse skin.

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National Center for Toxicological Research, US Food & Drug Administration, Jefferson, Arkansas 72079, USA.


Many cosmetics, sunscreens, and other consumer products are reported to contain nanoscale materials. The possible transdermal absorption of nanoscale materials and the long-term consequences of the absorption have not been determined. We used polyethylene glycol coated cadmium selenide (CdSe) core quantum dots (QD; 37 nm diameter) to evaluate the penetration of nanoscale material into intact, tape stripped, acetone treated, or dermabraded mouse skin. QD were suspended in an oil-in-water emulsion (approximately 9 microM) and the emulsion was applied at 2 mg/cm(2) to mouse dorsal skin pretreated as follows: intact; tape stripped to remove the stratum corneum; acetone pretreated; dermabraded to remove stratum corneum and epidermis. QD penetration into the skin was monitored in sentinel organs (liver and regional draining lymph nodes) using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry analysis of cadmium (from the CdSe QD). No consistent cadmium elevation was detected in the sentinel organs of mice with intact, acetone pretreated, or tape-stripped skin at 24- and 48-h post-QD application; however, in dermabraded mice, cadmium elevations were detected in the lymph nodes and liver. QD accumulation (as cadmium) in the liver was approximately 2.0% of the applied dose. The passing of QD through the dermabraded skin was confirmed using confocal fluorescence microscopy. These results suggest that transdermal absorption of nanoscale materials depends on skin barrier quality, and that the lack of an epidermis provided access to QD penetration. Future dermal risk assessments of nanoscale materials should consider key barrier aspects of skin and its overall physiologic integrity.

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