Non-invasive iontophoretic delivery of peptides and proteins across the skin

Expert Opin Drug Deliv. 2011 May;8(5):645-63. doi: 10.1517/17425247.2011.566265. Epub 2011 Mar 24.


Introduction: Peptides and proteins are playing an increasingly important role in modern therapy. Their potency and specificity make them excellent therapeutic agents; however, their physicochemical properties and stability requirements almost invariably necessitate their administration by subcutaneous, intramuscular or intravenous injection. Controlled non-invasive administration using more patient-friendly advanced delivery technologies may combine the precision afforded by parenteral administration with improved compliance and the potential for individualized therapy.

Areas covered: Transdermal iontophoresis enables hydrophilic charged molecules to be administered through the skin in an effective, non-invasive, patient-friendly manner. This review presents the basic concepts and an analysis of the effect of iontophoretic parameters and molecular properties on electrotransport rates across the skin along with a summary of experimental studies with peptides and proteins. The last section covers other techniques used in conjunction with iontophoresis.

Expert opinion: It has long been known that iontophoresis can administer therapeutic amounts of biologically active peptides into the body. More recent studies have shown that it is also capable of delivering structurally intact, functional proteins non-invasively into and across intact human skin. The next step is to develop cost-effective and easy-to-use iontophoretic patch systems that ensure biomolecule stability, optimize delivery efficiency and address unmet therapeutic needs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Drug Compounding / methods*
  • Humans
  • Iontophoresis / methods*
  • Peptides / administration & dosage*
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Peptides / therapeutic use
  • Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Skin / metabolism


  • Peptides
  • Proteins