Penetration of metallic nanoparticles in human full-thickness skin

J Invest Dermatol. 2007 Jul;127(7):1701-12. doi: 10.1038/sj.jid.5700733. Epub 2007 Mar 22.


The potential and benefits of nanoparticles in nanobiotechnology have been enthusiastically discussed in recent literature; however, little is known about the potential risks of contamination by accidental contact during production or use. Although theories of transdermal drug delivery suggest that skin structure and composition do not allow the penetration of materials larger than 600 Da, some articles on particle penetration into the skin have been recently published. Consequently, we wanted to evaluate whether metallic nanoparticles smaller than 10 nm could penetrate and eventually permeate the skin. Two different stabilized nanoparticle dispersions were applied to excised human skin samples using vertical diffusion cells. At established time points, solutions in receiving chambers were quantified for nanoparticle concentration, and skin was processed for light transmission and electron microscope examination. The results of this study showed that nanoparticles were able to penetrate the hair follicle and stratum corneum (SC), occasionally reaching the viable epidermis. Yet, nanoparticles were unable to permeate the skin. These results represent a breakthrough in skin penetration because it is early evidence where rigid nanoparticles have been shown to passively reach the viable epidermis through the SC lipidic matrix.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adult
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cell Membrane Permeability / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hair Follicle / cytology
  • Hair Follicle / physiology
  • Hair Follicle / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Metal Nanoparticles / administration & dosage*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Skin / cytology*
  • Skin / ultrastructure
  • Skin Absorption / physiology
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena
  • Skinfold Thickness*