Elucidation of the transport pathway in hairless rat skin enhanced by low-frequency sonophoresis based on the solute-water transport relationship and confocal microscopy


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Abstract

In this study, we examined a relationship between hydrophilic solute and water (vehicle) transports in the excised hairless rat skin in the presence of ultrasound (41 kHz, 60-300 mW/cm2) irradiation and also conducted skin surface observation using confocal microscopy. When the applied intensity was increased stepwise over the rage of 60-300 mW/cm2, the transport of tritiated water (3H2O) was increased 140-fold in an intensity-dependent manner and this returned to normal on stopping the ultrasound application. The skin permeation clearance (μl/h) of model hydrophilic solutes, calcein (MW 623) and FITC-labeled dextrans [MW 4400 (FD-4) and MW 38000 (FD-40)], across the skin under the influence of ultrasound was plotted against the corresponding 3H2O flux (μl/h) to estimate the potential contribution of convective solvent flow, induced by the ultrasound application, to the solute transport. Good correlations were observed between the 3H2O flux and solute clearances and, unexpectedly, the slope values obtained from linear regression of the plots were consistent for all solutes examined (1.04±0.29 for calcein, 1.07±0.17 for FD-4, and 1.08±0.23 for FD-40, respectively). Transport of intact FD-4 and FD-40 was confirmed by gel permeation chromatography. When the skin surface and deeper regions of the skin after sonophoresis of FD-40 were observed using a confocal microscope, the fluorescence of FD-40 was uniformly distributed in the area under the ultrasound horn and also evident in crack-like structures in the boundary of the horn. On the other hand, a hexagonal structure of horny cells in the stratum corneum (SC) observed by post-staining with rhodamine B was fully conserved in the area under the horn. These findings suggest that 41 kHz ultrasound can increase the transdermal transport of hydrophilic solutes by inducing convective solvent flow probably via both corneocytes and SC lipids as well as newly developed routes. Our observation also suggests that 41 kHz (low-frequency) ultrasound has the potential to deliver hydrophilic large molecules transdermally.

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