Metabolic approaches to enhance transdermal drug delivery. 1. Effect of lipid synthesis inhibitors

Jui Chen Tsai, Richard H. Guy, Carl R. Thornfeldt, Wen Ni Gao, Kenneth R. Feingold, Peter M. Elias

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87 Citations (SciVal)


The intercellular domains of the stratum corneum, which contain a mixture of cholesterol, free fatty acids, and ceramides, mediate both the epidermal permeability barrier and the transdermal delivery of both lipophilic and hydrophilic molecules. Prior studies have shown that each of the three key lipid classes is required for normal barrier function. For example, selective inhibition of either cholesterol, fatty acid, or ceramide synthesis in the epidermis delays barrier recovery rates after barrier perturbation of hairless mouse skin in vivo. In this study, we investigated the potential of certain inhibitors of lipid synthesis to enhance the transdermal delivery of lidocaine or caffeine as a result of their capacity to perturb barrier homeostasis. After acetone disruption of the barrier, the extent of lidocaine delivery and the degree of altered barrier function paralleled each other. Moreover, the further alteration in barrier function produced by either the fatty acid synthesis inhibitor 5-(tetradecyloxy)-2-furancarboxylic acid (TOFA), the cholesterol synthesis inhibitor fluvastatin (FLU), or cholesterol sulfate (CS) resulted in a further increase in lidocaine absorption. Furthermore, coapplications of TOFA and CS together caused an additive increase in lidocaine uptake. Finally, a comparable increase in drug delivery occurred when the barrier was disrupted initially with DMSO instead of acetone; coapplications of TOFA and FLU together again delayed barrier recovery and increased drug delivery by about 8-fold vs delivery from a standard enhancing vehicle. Whereas these metabolic inhibitors also variably increased the octanol/water partitioning of the drugs studied (perhaps via complexion or pH alterations), physicochemical effects of the inhibitors alone did not alter drug uptake in intact skin; i.e., passive mechanisms alone cannot account for the net increase in drug delivery. Our results show that modulations of epidermal lipid biosynthesis, following application of conventional, chemical penetration enhancers, cause a further boost in drug delivery, attributable to the ability of these agents to alter both permeability barrier homeostasis and thermodynamics. This biochemical/metabolic approach provides a novel means to enhance transdermal drug delivery in conjunction with the concurrent or prior use of chemical enhancers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-648
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 1996

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by NIH grants AR 19098 and HD 23010 and the Medical Research Service, Veterans Administration. Secretarial service was provided by Sue Allen.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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