Visualizing and Quantifying Pharmaceutical Compounds within Skin using Coherent Raman Scattering Imaging

Benjamin A. Kuzma, Isaac J. Pence, Alexander Ho, Conor L. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cutaneous pharmacokinetics (cPK) after topical formulation application has been a research area of particular interest for regulatory and drug development scientists to mechanistically understand topical bioavailability (BA). Semi-invasive techniques, such as tape-stripping, dermal microdialysis, or dermal open-flow microperfusion, all quantify macroscale cPK. While these techniques have provided vast cPK knowledge, the community lacks a mechanistic understanding of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) penetration and permeation at the cellular level. One noninvasive approach to address microscale cPK is coherent Raman scattering imaging (CRI), which selectively targets intrinsic molecular vibrations without the need for extrinsic labels or chemical modification. CRI has two main methods-coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) and stimulated Raman scattering (SRS)-that enable sensitive and selective quantification of APIs or inactive ingredients. CARS is typically utilized to derive structural skin information or visualize chemical contrast. In contrast, the SRS signal, which is linear with molecular concentration, is used to quantify APIs or inactive ingredients within skin stratifications. Although mouse tissue has commonly been utilized for cPK with CRI, topical BA and bioequivalence (BE) must ultimately be assessed in human tissue before regulatory approval. This paper presents a methodology to prepare and image ex vivo skin to be used in quantitative pharmacokinetic CRI studies in the evaluation of topical BA and BE. This methodology enables reliable and reproducible API quantification within human and mouse skin over time. The concentrations within lipid-rich and lipid-poor compartments, as well as total API concentration over time are quantified; these are utilized for estimates of micro-and macroscale BA and, potentially, BE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere63264
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number177
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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