Swedish discovery could be key to better transdermal delivery

Karolinska Institutet professor Lars Norlén--courtesy of Karolinska Institutet

While needle-free, transdermal drug delivery has been around for some time now, scientists at the Karolinska Institutet believe their recent discovery in understanding the skin's outermost layer could revolutionize the practice.

The outer layer is a watertight surface called the stratum corneum, and any transdermal treatment must penetrate it to be effective. At Karolinska, the researchers analyzed rapidly frozen skin samples under a low-temperature electron microscope, studying the molecular structure and function of the outer layer and developing a model of how it works and how to penetrate it.

"We can now construct computer simulations to help us find out which substances have to be added to different drugs to open up the skin," said Lars Norlén, associate dermatology professor at Karolinska. "We hope to one day be able to administer regular drugs like insulin and antibiotics this way."

The team's model could eliminate much of the guess work and early trials of pipeline transdermal drugs, allowing scientists to determine how best to get treatments past the stratum corneum before even developing trial doses.

There has been a focus on transdermal delivery of late, highlighted by Echo Therapeutics ($ECTE) and its Prelude SkinPrep system, which is used in the company's needle-free, wireless glucose monitor, Symphony tCGM. Israel's Syneron Medical is also working on a transdermal device that uses radiofrequencies to create microscopic channels across the skin through which drugs can be delivered.

- read Karolinska's release