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Computational and Mathematical Methods in Medicine
Volume 11 (2010), Issue 4, Pages 353-368

Modelling Formation of a Drug Reservoir in the Stratum Corneum and Its Impact on Drug Monitoring Using Reverse Iontophoresis

1Centre for Mathematical Biology, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK
2Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK
3Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK

Received 18 January 2010; Accepted 28 May 2010

Copyright © 2010 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Reverse iontophoresis is a relatively new technique for non-invasive drug monitoring in the body. It involves a small electrical current being passed through the skin to facilitate the movement of small charged ions and polar molecules on the skin's surface where the amount of drug can then be measured and hence an accurate estimate of the blood concentration can be made. In vivo studies for several molecules show that initially large amounts of drug are extracted from the body, which are unrelated to the magnitude of the blood concentration; over time the fluxes of extraction decrease to a level proportional to the steady state blood concentration. This suggests that, at first, the drug is being extracted from some source other than the blood; one such candidate for this source is the dead cells which form the stratum corneum. In this paper, we construct two related mathematical models; the first describes the formation of the drug reservoir in the stratum corneum as a consequence of repeated drug intake and natural death of skin cells in the body. The output from this model provides initial conditions for the model of reverse iontophoresis in which charged ions from both the blood and the stratum corneum reservoir compete for the electric current. Model parameters are estimated from data collected for lithium monitoring. Our models will improve interpretation of reverse iontophoretic data by discriminating the subdermal from the skin contribution to the fluxes of extraction. They also suggest that analysis of the skin reservoir might be a valuable tool to investigate patients' exposure to chemicals including therapeutic drugs.