Profiling Permeation Enhancers

Published online 18 July 2023 in Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling (doi 10.1021/acs.jcim.3c00625):

Understanding drug skin permeation enhancers using molecular dynamics simulations

Christian WennbergMagnus LundborgErik Lindahl, Lars Norlén

Our skin constitutes an effective permeability barrier that protects the body from exogenous substances but concomitantly severely limits the number of pharmaceutical drugs that can be delivered transdermally. In topical formulation design, chemical permeation enhancers (PEs) are used to increase drug skin permeability. In vitro skin permeability experiments can measure net effects of PEs on transdermal drug transport, but they cannot explain the molecular mechanisms of interactions between drugs, permeation enhancers, and skin structure, which limits the possibility to rationally design better new drug formulations. Here we investigate the effect of the PEs water, lauric acid, geraniol, stearic acid, thymol, ethanol, oleic acid, and eucalyptol on the transdermal transport of metronidazole, caffeine, and naproxen. We use atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations in combination with developed molecular models to calculate the free energy difference between 11 PE-containing formulations and the skin’s barrier structure. We then utilize the results to calculate the final concentration of PEs in skin. We obtain an RMSE of 0.58 log units for calculated partition coefficients from water into the barrier structure. We then use the modified PE-containing barrier structure to calculate the PEs’ permeability enhancement ratios (ERs) on transdermal metronidazole, caffeine, and naproxen transport and compare with the results obtained from in vitro experiments. We show that MD simulations are able to reproduce rankings based on ERs. However, strict quantitative correlation with experimental data needs further refinement, which is complicated by significant deviations between different measurements. Finally, we propose a model for how to use calculations of the potential of mean force of drugs across the skin’s barrier structure in a topical formulation design.

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