A new computer-based evaporimeter system for rapid measurements of water diffusion through stratum corneum in-vitro

Norlén, L.; Engblom, J.; Anderson, M.; Forslind, B.


It is important to have reliable methods for evaluation of skin barrier function when questions such as barrier perturbing effects of different agents and occlusive effects of different formulations are to be elucidated. A wealth of clinical work relates to measurements of transepidermal water loss in vivo, a method much affected by ambient air relative humidity, temperature, skin irritation processes, psychologic status of the subject, etc., factors that cause the method to suffer from low precision (i.e., high random error). Relating to these obstacles, we have developed a closed in vitro system for measurements of water diffusion rate through pieces of isolated stratum corneum at steady-state conditions, where the relative humidity and temperature is held constant and data can be collected continuously. Our evaporimeter-based in vitro system has a more than 3-fold higher precision (lower random error) (≈10%) than measurements of transepidermal water loss in vivo (≈35%). The results of our study show that: (i) the corneocyte envelopes contribute to the barrier capacity of stratum corneum; (ii) removal of the lipid intercellular matrix results in approximately a 3-fold increase in the water diffusion rate through the isolated stratum corneum (n = 20; p < 0.05), not a 100-fold as has previously been suggested; (iii) exposure to sodium dodecyl sulfate in water does neither alter the water diffusion rate (n = 10; p > 0.05) nor the water holding capacity (n = 10; p > 0.05) of stratum corneum; (iv) exposure to 1 M CaCl2 in water yields an increased water diffusion rate through stratum corneum (n = 10; p < 0.05); and (v) when applied to the stratum corneum in excess concentrations, the penetration enhancer Azone has occlusive effects on water diffusion through the stratum corneum (n = 6; p < 0.05).