Purpose: To determine the pathways and origin of electroosmotic flow in human skin.
Methods: Iontophoretic transport of acetaminophen in full thickness human cadaver skin was visualized and quantified by scanning electrochemical microscopy. Electroosmotic flow in the shunt pathways of full thickness skin was compared to flow in the pores of excised stratum corneum and a synthetic membrane pore. The penetration of rhodamine 6G into pore structures was investigated by laser scanning confocal microscopy.
Results: Electroosmotic transport is observed in shunt pathways in full thickness human skin (e.g., hair follicles and sweat glands), but not in pore openings of freestanding stratum corneum. Absolute values of the diffusive and iontophoretic pore fluxes of acetaminophen in full thickness human skin are also reported. Rhodamine 6G is observed to penetrate to significant depths (approximately 200 microm) along pore pathways.
Conclusions: Iontophoresis in human cadaver skin induces localized electroosmotic flow along pore shunt paths. Electroosmotic forces arise from the passage of current through negatively charged mesoor nanoscale pores (e.g., gap functions) within cellular regions that define the pore structure beneath the stratum corneum.