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Nanoscale. 2011 Dec;3(12):4989-99. doi: 10.1039/c1nr11109d. Epub 2011 Nov 7.

Mechanism and determinants of nanoparticle penetration through human skin.

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Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology, Saarland University, 66123, Saarbr├╝cken, Germany.


The ability of nanoparticles to penetrate the stratum corneum was the focus of several studies. Yet, there are controversial issues available for particle penetration due to different experimental setups. Meanwhile, there is little known about the mechanism and determinants of their penetration. In this paper the penetration of four model gold nanoparticles of diameter 6 and 15 nm, differing in surface polarity and the nature of the vehicle, through human skin was studied using multiphoton microscopy. This is in an attempt to profoundly investigate the parameters governing particle penetration through human skin. Our results imply that nanoparticles at this size range permeate the stratum corneum in a similar manner to drug molecules, mainly through the intercellular pathways. However, due to their particulate nature, permeation is also dependent on the complex microstructure of the stratum corneum with its tortuous aqueous and lipidic channels, as shown from our experiments performed using skin of different grades of barrier integrity. The vehicle (toluene-versus-water) had a minimal effect on skin penetration of gold nanoparticles. Other considerations in setting up a penetration experiment for nanoparticles were also studied. The results obtained are important for designing a new transdermal carrier and for a basic understanding of skin-nanoparticle interaction.

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