Pharmaceutical Strategies for the Topical Dermal Delivery of Peptides/Proteins for Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications

Review Article

Austin J Pharmacol Ther. 2014; 2 (6).1036

Pharmaceutical Strategies for the Topical Dermal Delivery of Peptides/Proteins for Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications

Badenhorst Travis, Svirskis Darren and Wu Zimei*

Department of Pharmaceutics, University of Auckland, New Zealand

*Corresponding author: : Zimei Wu, Department of Pharmaceutics, School of Pharmacy, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand

Received: July 10, 2014; Accepted: August 22, 2014; Published: August 27, 2014


Bioactive peptides and proteins have attracted great attention in the cosmetic industry for the development of new cosmetic products to reverse the signs of ageing (anti-ageing treatment). These have also led to new therapeutic agents for clinical applications associated with wound healing; fibrosis, excessive scarring, and inflammation. One of the mostly used administration routes is by topical delivery. However, the skin is an intrinsic barrier to peptide/ protein transportation across the stratum corneum. Therefore the key function of a topical delivery system is to enhance the dermal permeability of the peptide/protein enabling it to cross the epidermis and retain in the dermis. The development of pharmaceutical strategies that employ sophisticated carrier systems such as elastic vesicles (such as liposome’s, and noisome), nano fibers, micro-emulsions and conjugation with cell-penetrating peptides may hold the key to enhancing peptide/protein dermal delivery. The aim of this paper is to review noninvasive topical delivery systems that promote dermal delivery of peptides/proteins for either cosmetic purposes or clinical therapeutic applications.

Keywords: Dermal delivery; Anti-ageing peptide/protein; Cosmetics; Carrier systems; Permeability; Wound healing


General ageing is characterized by accumulation of molecular damage and progressive failure of maintenance and repair. Skin ageing has many visible and measurable characteristics, including loss of elasticity, dermo-epidermal junction flattening, thinning, decreased barrier function, irregular keratinization leading to a yellow skin tone and decreased skin lipids [1]. In women, skin ageing predominantly takes place after the age of 40 and will be noticed as a reduction in thickness and a decrease of collagen and elastin of between 1 and 2% per year [2]. The loss of elasticity in the dermis is associated with increased collagen cross-linking with age [3]. To slow these ageing processes, anti-ageing cosmetic peptides/ proteins have been produced and have attracted great attention in the cosmetic industry [4]. The targets of these peptides often involve the modulation of collagen production, cell proliferation, inflammation, cell migration, angiogenesis and melanogenesis [5]. Whilst these cosmetic targets are valid, clinical applications of peptides and proteins including treatment of burns [6], reducing inflammation [7] and wound healing [8] have an increasing significant place.

A peptide is an organic compound consisting of two or more amino acids in which the carboxyl group of one is linked to the amino group of another [9]. The distinction between peptides and proteins lies in the size and length of the amino acid chain(s). Compounds with sequences exceeding 50 amino acids are termed proteins. Proteins can be categorized by their function; structural proteins are the building blocks of tissue, such as collagen and elastin. Peptides, similarly to proteins, are biologically active and are often components or precursors of larger proteins such as collagen. Topically administered peptides, such as glycyl-L-histidyl-L-lysine–copper [10], can reverse the signs of ageing [11,12]. These are classified as an enzyme-inhibiting, signaling, neurotransmitter-inhibiting or carrier peptides according to their mechanism of action (Table 1) [5].