Human basic fibroblast growth factor (hbFGF; 17.4 kDa) has shown promise in the treatment of several dermatological conditions; symptomatic improvement was also observed in patients with peripheral arterial disease after arterial infusion. The objective of this study was to demonstrate the feasibility of using transdermal iontophoresis to deliver biologically active hbFGF noninvasively into and across the skin. The protein was cloned, expressed and purified in-house. Porcine skin was used to investigate transdermal iontophoretic transport of hbFGF as a function of current density (0.15, 0.3, and 0.5 mA/cm(2)); results were subsequently confirmed using human skin. Cumulative hbFGF permeation and skin deposition were quantified by ELISA. The absence of proteolytic degradation during skin transit was confirmed by SDS-PAGE. Biological activity postdelivery was determined using cell proliferation assays in human foreskin fibroblast (HFF) and NIH 3T3 cell lines. Confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) was used to visualize the distribution of rhodamine-tagged hbFGF in the skin. Cumulative iontophoretic permeation at 0.3 mA/cm(2) was statistically superior to that at 0.15 mA/cm(2); however, there was no further improvement at 0.5 mA/cm(2). Significant skin deposition of hbFGF was observed, and this dominated transport; for example, after iontophoresis for 8 h at 0.5 mA/cm(2), skin deposition (77.74 ± 37.36 μg/cm(2)) was 4.4-fold higher than cumulative permeation (17.64 ± 5.18 μg/cm(2)). The superior skin deposition may be advantageous for dermatological applications. The HFF and NIH 3T3 cell proliferation assays confirmed that biological activity of hbFGF was retained postdelivery. Coiontophoresis of acetaminophen showed that the dominant transport mechanism switched from electroosmosis to electromigration upon increasing current density from 0.15 to 0.3 mA/cm(2). Experiments using human skin confirmed that iontophoretic permeation of hbFGF across porcine and human membranes was statistically equivalent. CLSM images of rhodamine-tagged hbFGF postiontophoresis indicated that the protein was evenly distributed throughout the epidermis and dermis. In conclusion, the results confirmed that transdermal iontophoresis was indeed able to deliver structurally intact, functional hbFGF noninvasively into and across the skin. The amounts of protein delivered were similar to those in reports from preclinical and clinical studies.