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Discovery & Development Drug Delivery, Small Molecules

Breaking Through the Barrier

As the largest organ, our skin typically accounts for around 10 percent of our body mass. In terms of drug administration, however, it remains a relatively unexplored frontier. The skin has evolved to be an excellent natural biological barrier, making it challenging for drugs to penetrate it in sufficient quantities to reach therapeutic concentrations (1). 

The skin has a multi-layered composition, so the capacity of a drug to enter and pass through depends on its ability to penetrate both the hydrophobic and hydrophilic layers of the skin. Drugs that are too hydrophilic are unable to pass into the outer layers (the stratum corneum), whilst very lipophilic drugs will be retained in the lipids of the stratum corneum and will not pass into the more aqueous epidermis, limiting permeation. Skin permeability may also be affected by a large number of physiological factors, including the anatomical site, age, ethnicity, gender, and underlying skin disorders (2, 3, 4). Skin is not a homogenous unchanging barrier, which means therapies designed to use the skin as a site of delivery need to be tailored appropriately to be effective.

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About the Author

Dave Cook

Chief Scientific Officer at Blueberry Therapeutics.

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