The intradermal delivery of biologics has long been recognized as attractive approach for cutaneous immunotherapy, particularly vaccination. Although intradermal (i.d.) or subcutaneous (s.c.) injection provide reproducible dosing and good cost- and delivery efficiency, the major objective to avoid sharps and the need for enhanced storage stability have renewed the interest in alternative needle-free delivery strategies. This study presents a new concept for the delivery of macromolecules and nanoparticles to viable skin layers with a high density of professional antigen-presenting cells (APCs). Stable polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) polymer films as well as PVA blends with carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) or cross-linked carbomer were prepared using an easily-scalable film casting technique. Fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC) and rhodamine B-labeled dextrane 70 kDa (RD70), used as small and macromolecular model substances, or polystyrene (PS)-nano- and microparticles with diameters of 0.5 µm and 5 µm were directly incorporated into the polymer formulations at varying concentrations. The assembly of the polymer films with an occlusive backing tape created a film patch that provided a fast drug release upon dissolution of the water-soluble film and facilitated an intradermal drug delivery on laser microporated skin. The minimally-invasive P.L.E.A.S.E.® laser poration system (Pantec Biosolutions, Ruggell, Liechtenstein) provided access to viable skin layers by thermally ablating the superficial tissue with a pulsed Er:YAG laser (λ = 2.94 µm). In our in vitro study using excised pig skin, laser microporation induced a 4- to 5-fold increase of water transport (TEWL) through excised skin in a Franz diffusion cell compared to intact skin. The TEWL values detected were comparable to in vivo human skin. The increased water transport facilitated the dissolution of all topically applied dry PVA-based film formulations within 6 h. No dissolution of the films was seen on intact skin. The incubation of the film patches on laser microporated skin for 24 h led to a considerable intradermal delivery of RD70 or PS-nanoparticles, which was superior for pure PVA films compared to PVA-CMC or PVA-carbomer blend formulations. No intradermal delivery was observed on intact skin or when larger PS-microparticles with a diameter of 5 µm were investigated. The presented concept provides a unique opportunity to exploit the improved storage stability of sensitive drug molecules in dry film formulations while providing protection and functionality.
Keywords: Er:YAG laser; Intradermal delivery; Micropore; PVA; Polymer film patch; Polyvinyl alcohol; Skin ablation; Skin vaccination; Transcutaneous immunization.
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