University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Article number958
Number of pages18
Early online date11 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2020


There has been considerable recent interest in employing computer models to investigate the relationship between the structure of a molecule and its dermal penetration. Molecular permeation across the epidermis has previously been demonstrated to be determined by a number of physicochemical properties, for example, the lipophilicity, molecular weight and hydrogen bonding ability of the permeant. However little attention has been paid to modeling the combined effects of permeant properties in tandem with the properties of vehicles used to deliver those permeants or to whether data obtained using synthetic membranes can be correlated with those obtained using human epidermis. This work uses Principal Components Analysis (PCA) to demonstrate that, for studies of the diffusion of three model permeants (caffeine, methyl paraben and butyl paraben) through synthetic membranes, it is the properties of the oily vehicle in which they are applied that dominated the rates of permeation and flux. Simple robust and predictive descriptor-based quantitative structure–permeability relationship (QSPR) models have been developed to support these findings by utilizing physicochemical descriptors of the oily vehicles to quantify the differences in flux and permeation of the model compounds. Interestingly, PCA showed that, for the flux of co-applied model permeants through human epidermis, the permeation of the model permeants was better described by a balance between the physicochemical properties of the vehicle and the permeant rather than being dominated solely by the vehicle properties as in the case of synthetic model membranes. The important influence of permeant solubility in the vehicle along with the solvent uptake on overall permeant diffusion into the membrane was substantiated. These results confirm that care must be taken in interpreting permeation data when synthetic membranes are employed as surrogates for human epidermis; they also demonstrate the importance of considering not only the permeant properties but also those of both vehicle and membrane when arriving at any conclusions relating to permeation data.


© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

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