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WIREs Nanomed Nanobiotechnol
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Nanoparticles through the skin: managing conflicting results of inorganic and organic particles in cosmetics and pharmaceutics

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Toxicity of nanoparticles is a current scientific issue because of the enhanced reactivity of nanomaterials and their possible easy penetration into the body arising from their small size. Because inorganic particles are present in sunscreen cosmetic products, attention has been focused on cutaneous penetration. But organic particles of various sizes are also used in pharmaceutical applications such as skin care and transdermal drug delivery. It appears that organic and inorganic particles penetrate the skin quite differently. The apparent discrepancy is addressed in this review focusing on skin penetration of inorganic sunscreen particles and organic particles for drug delivery. After a short description of the physicochemical properties of these particles, the skin penetration of both types is reviewed with emphasis on the mechanistic issues and the differences that could account for such conflicting results. It appears that investigations by cosmetic and pharmaceutical communities focused on the main issue, i.e., no toxicity in cosmetics and maximum activity of the drug in pharmaceutics. This leaves several fundamental issues as open questions and this does not allow a rigorous comparison between both types of material. While it is claimed that inorganic nanoparticles can only penetrate the outer layer of the skin, it appears that organic submicron particles and even microparticles reach the dermis in an in vitro cell. Besides particle size, the surface chemistry of the particles and the presence of other excipients in the formulations contribute to skin absorption. WIREs Nanomed Nanobiotechnol 2011 3 463–478 DOI: 10.1002/wnan.146

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Figure 1.

Properties of particles sorted into four general classes.

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Figure 2.

Electron microscopy pictures of inorganic particles used in cosmetic products. Left: SiO2 thickener HDK H30 (Wacker). From left to right (top ×1000; bottom ×5000): TiO2 sunscreen UV Titan M212 (Kemira); Mica + TiO2 pigment Timiron Supersheen MP‐1001 (Merck); Hematite pigment Sun Croma Red Iron Oxide C33‐2199 (Maprecos); Madder lake.

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Figure 3.

Electron micrographs of organic particles used in drug delivery applications. From left to right: nanoparticles (polymer/water); nanocapsules (oil/polymer/water); porous polymer particles (water/polymer/water); liposomes of Lipoid E80.

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Figure 4.

Scanning electron microscopy of the third tape strip of the stratum corneum (left) and the dermis (right) after 24‐h exposure to porous microspheres loaded with caffeine.

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Figure 5.

Permeation profile of caffeine through excised pig skin over 24‐h exposure to porous microparticles loaded with caffeine.71 From microparticles: () as encapsulated; () as free caffeine; () total. From solution: .

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Figure 6.

Scanning electron microscopy of tape strip of stratum corneum after 24‐h exposure to hydrophilic silica in aqueous suspension (a and b) and Pickering emulsion (c and d).

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Nanotechnology Approaches to Biology > Nanoscale Systems in Biology
Toxicology and Regulatory Issues in Nanomedicine > Toxicology of Nanomaterials
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In the Spotlight

James F. Leary

James F. Leary
has been contributing to nanomedical research and technologies throughout his career. Such contributions include the invention of high-speed flow cytometry, cell sorting techniques, and rare-event methods. Dr. Leary’s current research spans across three general areas in nanomedicine. The first is the development of high-throughput single-cell flow cytometry and cell sorting technologies. The second explores BioMEMS technologies. These include miniaturized cell sorters, portable devices for detection of microbial pathogens in food and water, and artificial human “organ-on-a-chip” technologies which consists of developing cell culture chips capable of simulating the activities and mechanics of entire organs and organ systems. His third area of research aims at developing smart nano-engineered systems for single-cell drug or gene delivery for nanomedicine. Dr. Leary currently holds nine issued U.S. Patents with four currently pending, and he has received NIH funding for over 25 years.

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