Molecular diffusion in the human nail measured by stimulated Raman scattering microscopy

Wing-Sin Chiu, Natalie Belsey, Natalie L. Garrett, Julian Moger, Maria Delgado-Charro, Richard Guy

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The effective treatment of diseases of the nail remains an important unmet medical need, primarily because of poor drug delivery. To address this challenge, the diffusion, in real time, of topically applied chemicals into the human nail has been visualized and characterized using stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy. Deuterated water (D2O), propylene glycol (PG-d8), and dimethyl sulphoxide (DMSO-d6) were separately applied to the dorsal surface of human nail samples. SRS microscopy was used to image D2O, PG-d8/DMSO-d6, and the nail through the O-D, -CD2, and -CH2 bond stretching Raman signals, respectively. Signal intensities obtained were measured as functions of time and of depth into the nail. It was observed that the diffusion of D2O was more than an order of magnitude faster than that of PG-d8 and DMSO-d6. Normalization of the Raman signals, to correct in part for scattering and absorption, permitted semiquantitative analysis of the permeation profiles and strongly suggested that solvent diffusion diverged from classical behavior and that derived diffusivities may be concentration dependent. It appeared that the uptake of solvent progressively undermined the integrity of the nail. This previously unreported application of SRS has permitted, therefore, direct visualization and semiquantitation of solvent penetration into the human nail. The kinetics of uptake of the three chemicals studied demonstrated that each altered its own diffusion in the nail in an apparently concentration-dependent fashion. The scale of the unexpected behavior observed may prove beneficial in the design and optimization of drug formulations to treat recalcitrant nail disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7725-7730
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number25
Early online date8 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2015


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