The vaginal mucosa is commonly exposed to a variety of topical agents, including chemical contraceptives, drugs for the treatment of specific pathological conditions, and pathogenic microorganisms. In vitro models can provide important information regarding the penetration and efficacy of topical compounds as well as the pathogenesis of various diseases such a menstrual toxic shock syndrome. Realistic and reproducible test systems are important if new agents are to fulfill their therapeutic potential in human populations. The selection of appropriate animal species and tissue and the use of valid in vitro systems can avoid many of the shortcomings of current animal and cell culture test systems. This review provides information about the factors that should be considered when selecting the best model to study the permeability of the human vagina. The characteristics of an ex vivo porcine model are explored and the validity of this model is demonstrated in terms of its histology, ultrastructure and composition and organization of the permeability barrier; data indicate excellent correlation of permeability and tissue response between human and porcine vaginal tissue.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.