Simplified stratum corneum model membranes for studying the effects of permeation enhancers

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The activity of transdermal permeation enhancers is usually evaluated in vitro on human or animal skin, but skin samples can be hard to source and highly variable. To provide a more consistent basis for evaluating the activity of permeation enhancers, we prepared relatively simple and inexpensive artificial membranes that imitate the stratum corneum (SC) lipid matrix. Our membranes were composed of stearic acid, cholesterol, cholesterol sulfate and a ceramide (CER) component consisting of N-2-hydroxystearoyl phytosphingosine (CER[AP]) and/or N-stearoyl phytosphingosine (CER[NP]). First, the permeation of theophylline (TH) and indomethacin (IND) through these membranes was compared with their permeation through porcine skin. Because the mixed CER[AP]/[NP] membrane gave the closest results to skin, this membrane was then used to test the effects of two permeation enhancers: N-dodecyl azepan-2-one (Azone) and (S)-N-acetylproline dodecyl ester (L-Pro2). Both enhancers significantly increased the flux of TH and IND through the skin and, even more markedly, through the lipid membrane, L-Pro2 having a stronger effect than Azone. Thus, our simplified model of the SC lipid membrane based on phytosphingosine CERs appears to be suitable for mimicking skin permeation.

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