We studied aggregate transport through semipermeable, nano-porous barriers experimentally and theoretically. By measuring and modeling the effect of hydration gradient across such barriers, spontaneous transbarrier transport of suitable lipid aggregates in vesicular form was proven to be driven by partial aggregate dehydration at the application site. By generalizing the Onsager transport model we derived a set of equations that rationalize all pertinent observations. Dehydration-induced vesicle motion starts with a lag time. This corresponds to the time needed to reach the limiting vesicle hydration; both are proportional to the starting excess water volume and decrease with increasing relative humidity at application site. The rate of transbarrier transport is insensitive to these parameters but increases with vesicle deformability and volume exchange capability. Both these properties depend on membrane composition. Reversible demixing of bilayer components is the cause of nonlinear bilayer characteristics and also potentially affects the effective membrane hydrophilicity. High hydrophilicity of vesicle surface and extreme aggregate shape adaptability together are necessary for successful material transport across the skin. This demonstrates the significance of basic biophysical investigations for better understanding of biological systems and for the practical use of artificial, nature-inspired carriers in drug delivery.
Cevc, G., & Gebauer, D. (2003). Hydration-driven transport of deformable lipid vesicles through fine pores and the skin barrier. Biophysical Journal, 84(2 I), 1010–1024. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(03)74917-0