Transferosomes as nanocarriers for drugs across the skin : quality by design from lab to industrial scale

Fernández-García, Raquel and Lalatsa, Aikaterini and Statts, Larry and Bolás-Fernández, Francisco and Ballesteros, M. Paloma and Serrano, Dolores R. (2020) Transferosomes as nanocarriers for drugs across the skin : quality by design from lab to industrial scale. International Journal of Pharmaceutics, 573. 118817. ISSN 0378-5173 (

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Transferosomes, also known as transfersomes, are ultradeformable vesicles for transdermal applications consisting of a lipid bilayer with phospholipids and an edge activator and an ethanol/aqueous core. Depending on the lipophilicity of the active substance, it can be encapsulated within the core or amongst the lipid bilayer. Compared to liposomes, transferosomes are able to reach intact deeper regions of the skin after topical administration delivering higher concentrations of active substances making them a successful drug delivery carrier for transdermal applications. Most transferosomes contain phosphatidylcholine (C18) as it is the most abundant lipid component of the cell membrane, and hence, it is highly tolerated for the skin, decreasing the risk of undesirable effects, such as hypersensitive reactions. The most common edge activators are surfactants such as sodium deoxycholate, Tween® 80 and Span® 80. Their chain length is optimal for intercalation within the C18 phospholipid bilayer. A wide variety of drugs has been successfully encapsulated within transferosomes such as phytocompounds like sinomenine or apigenin for rheumatoid arthritis and leukaemia respectively, small hydrophobic drugs but also macromolecules like insulin. The main factors to develop optimal transferosomal formulations (with high drug loading and nanometric size) are the optimal ratio between the main components as well as the critical process parameters for their manufacture. Application of quality by design (QbD), specifically design of experiments (DoE), is crucial to understand the interplay among all these factors not only during the preparation at lab scale but also in the scale-up process. Clinical trials of a licensed topical ketoprofen transferosomal gel have shown promising results in the alleviation of symptons in orthreothritis with non-severe skin and subcutaneous tissue disorders. However, the product was withdrawn from the market which probably was related to the higher cost of the medicine linked to the expensive manufacturing process required in the production of transferosomes compared to other conventional gel formulations. This example brings out the need for a careful formulation design to exploit the best properties of this drug delivery system as well as the development of manufacturing processes easily scalable at industrial level.