The transepithelial transport of biosynthetic human growth hormone (hGH) formulated with the absorption enhancers didecanoyl-L-alpha-phosphatidylcholine (DDPC) and alpha-cyclodextrin (alpha-CD) was studied after intranasal administration to rabbits. Plasma concentrations of the hormone were determined until 240 min post administration by ELISA, and the absolute bioavailability was estimated to be in the vicinity of 20%. The localization of hGH was studied 15 min after application of the powder formulation in the initial absorptive phase. To visualize the hormone, a two-step indirect immuno-gold technique was used on semithin and ultrathin cryosections and Epon sections. Polyclonal rabbit anti-hGH was used as primary antibody and gold-conjugated goat anti-rabbit IgG as secondary antibody, succeeded by silver enhancement. Growth hormone was mainly found in the cytoplasm and nuclei of ciliated cells, showing distinct morphological signs of early necrosis, and in lamina propria, including the venules. Minute amounts of hGH were found in endocytotic vesicles in morphologically normal epithelial cells and in the intercellular compartment. We conclude that the major transport route of hGH formulated with absorption enhancers DDPC and alpha-CD was transcellular through lethally damaged ciliated cells.
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