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Mol Pharm. 2013 Jun 3;10(6):2248-60. doi: 10.1021/mp300441c. Epub 2013 May 2.

Effect of chemical permeation enhancers on stratum corneum barrier lipid organizational structure and interferon alpha permeability.

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School of Pharmacy, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON, Canada, N2L 3G1.


The outermost layer of the skin, known as the stratum corneum (SC), is composed of dead corneocytes embedded in an intercellular lipid matrix consisting of ceramides, free fatty acids, and cholesterol. The high level of organization within this matrix protects the body by limiting the permeation of most compounds through the skin. While essential for its protective functions, the SC poses a significant barrier for the delivery of topically applied pharmaceutical agents. Chemical permeation enhancers (CPEs) can increase delivery of small drug compounds into the skin by interacting with the intercellular lipids through physical processes including extraction, fluidization, increased disorder, and phase separation. However, it is not clear whether these same mechanisms are involved in delivery of biotherapeutic macromolecules, such as proteins. Here we describe the effect of three categories of CPEs {solvents [ethanol, propylene glycol, diethylene glycol monoethyl ether (transcutol), oleic acid], terpenes [menthol, nerol, camphor, methyl salicylate], and surfactants [Tween 80, SDS, benzalkonium chloride, polyoxyl 40 hydrogenated castor oil (Cremophor RH40), didecyldimethylammonium bromide (DDAB), didecyltrimethylammonium bromide (DTAB)]} on the lipid organizational structure of human SC as determined by X-ray scattering studies. Small- and wide-angle X-ray scattering studies were conducted to correlate the degree of structural changes and hydrocarbon chain packing in SC lipids caused by these various classes of CPEs to the extent of permeation of interferon alpha-2b (IFNα), a 19 kDa protein drug, into human skin. With the exception of solvents, propylene glycol and ethanol, all classes of CPEs caused increased disordering of lamellar and lateral packing of lipids. We observed that the highest degree of SC lipid disordering was caused by surfactants (especially SDS, DDAB, and DTAB) followed by terpenes, such as nerol. Interestingly, in vitro skin permeation studies indicated that, in most cases, absorption of IFNα was low and that an increase in SC lipid disorder does not correspond to an increase in IFNα absorption.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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