Transdermal delivery of scopolamine by natural submicron injectors: In-vivo study in pig

Esther Shaoul, Ari Ayalon, Yossi Tal, Tamar Lotan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Transdermal drug delivery has made a notable contribution to medical practice, but has yet to fully achieve its potential as an alternative to oral delivery and hypodermic injections. While transdermal delivery systems would appear to provide an attractive solution for local and systemic drug delivery, only a limited number of drugs can be delivered through the outer layer of the skin. The most difficult to deliver in this way are hydrophilic drugs. The aquatic phylum Cnidaria, which includes sea anemones, corals, jellyfish and hydra, is one of the most ancient multicellular phyla that possess stinging cells containing organelles (cnidocysts), comprising a sophisticated injection system. The apparatus is folded within collagenous microcapsules and upon activation injects a thin tubule that immediately penetrates the prey and delivers its contents. Here we show that this natural microscopic injection system can be adapted for systemic transdermal drug delivery once it is isolated from the cells and uploaded with the drug. Using a topically applied gel containing isolated natural sea anemone injectors and the muscarinic receptor antagonist scopolamine, we found that the formulated injectors could penetrate porcine skin and immediately deliver this hydrophilic drug. An in-vivo study in pigs demonstrated, for the first time, rapid systemic delivery of scopolamine, with T max of 30 minutes and C max 5 times higher than in controls treated topically with a scopolamine-containing gel without cnidocysts. The ability of the formulated natural injection system to penetrate a barrier as thick as the skin and systemically deliver an exogenous compound presents an intriguing and attractive alternative for hydrophilic transdermal drug delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere31922
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
StatePublished - 21 Feb 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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