Hollow-fiber membrane technology: Characterization and proposed use as a potential mimic of skin vascularization towards the development of a novel skin absorption in vitro model

Patricia Perez-Esteban, Juliette Pickles, Andrew D. Scott, Marianne J. Ellis

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Dermal bioavailability is currently estimated through skin penetration studies using ex vivo models, which lack any measure of capillary bed function, and thus do not fully reproduce physiological conditions. We propose a novel strategy to mimic skin vascularization using newly fabricated hollow fibers made from a biocompatible membrane material, polystyrene, which is hydrophobic if left untreated, or hydrophilic when its surface polarity is modified through plasma-treatment. Caffeine has been well studied in skin penetration assays and was used here to determine the permeation properties of the hollow fibers in a novel jacketed glass bioreactor. For hydrophobic fibers, approximately 87.2 % of the caffeine dose did not penetrate the porous surface; 0.2 % of the dose was collected after 24 h (permeated through the pores), and therefore 12.6 % of the initial dose was suspected to block the membrane. For hydrophilic fibers, both the percentage of the initial dose that permeated and that of blocking caffeine increased to 1.2 % and 35.2 % respectively. It was concluded that caffeine permeated the hollow fibers at similar times of clearance to those observed in vivo, and therefore shows that this new model could provide a surrogate for capillary-based clearance in in vitro skin absorption studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-97
Number of pages8
JournalBiochemical Engineering Journal
Early online date30 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2019


  • Chemical adsorption
  • Hollow fiber membranes
  • Skin penetration
  • Systemic toxicity
  • Tissue engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering

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