Journal of controlled release : official journal of the Controlled Release Society

A physical mechanism to explain the delivery of chemical penetration enhancers into skin during transdermal sonophoresis - Insight into the observed synergism.

PMID 22100440


The synergism between low-frequency sonophoresis (LFS) and chemical penetration enhancers (CPEs), especially surfactants, in transdermal enhancement has been investigated extensively since this phenomenon was first observed over a decade ago. In spite of the identifying that the origin of this synergism is the increased penetration and subsequent dispersion of CPEs in the skin in response to LFS treatment, to date, no mechanism has been directly proposed to explain how LFS induces the observed increased transport of CPEs. In this study, we propose a plausible physical mechanism by which the transport of all CPEs is expected to have significantly increased flux into the localized-transport regions (LTRs) of LFS-treated skin. Specifically, the collapse of acoustic cavitation microjets within LTRs induces a convective flux. In addition, because amphiphilic molecules preferentially adsorb onto the gas/water interface of cavitation bubbles, amphiphiles have an additional adsorptive flux. In this sense, the cavitation bubbles effectively act as carriers for amphiphilic molecules, delivering surfactants directly into the skin when they collapse at the skin surface as cavitation microjets. The flux equations derived for CPE delivery into the LTRs and non-LTRs during LFS treatment, compared to that for untreated skin, explain why the transport of all CPEs, and to an even greater extent amphiphilic CPEs, is increased during LFS treatment. The flux model is tested with a non-amphiphilic CPE (propylene glycol) and both nonionic and ionic amphiphilic CPEs (octyl glucoside and sodium lauryl sulfate, respectively), by measuring the flux of each CPE into untreated skin and the LTRs and non-LTRs of LFS-treated skin. The resulting data shows very good agreement with the proposed flux model.