• 1 Department of Applied Chemistry, Graduate School of Engineering, Kyushu University, 744 Motooka, Nishi-ku, Fukuoka 819-0395, Japan
  • 2 Department of Chemical Engineering, Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS, 32610 Seri Iskandar, Perak, Malaysia
PMID: 34460218 DOI: 10.1021/acsami.1c11533


Since injection administration for diabetes is invasive, it is important to develop an effective transdermal method for insulin. However, transdermal delivery remains challenging owing to the strong barrier function of the stratum corneum (SC) of the skin. Here, we developed ionic liquid (IL)-in-oil microemulsion formulations (MEFs) for transdermal insulin delivery using choline-fatty acids ([Chl][FAs])-comprising three different FAs (C18:0, C18:1, and C18:2)-as biocompatible surface-active ILs (SAILs). The MEFs were successfully developed using [Chl][FAs] as surfactants, sorbitan monolaurate (Span-20) as a cosurfactant, choline propionate IL as an internal polar phase, and isopropyl myristate as a continuous oil phase. Ternary phase behavior, dynamic light scattering, and transmission electron microscopy studies revealed that MEFs were thermodynamically stable with nanoparticle size. The MEFs significantly enhanced the transdermal permeation of insulin via the intercellular route by compromising the tight lamellar structure of SC lipids through a fluidity-enhancing mechanism. In vivo transdermal administration of low insulin doses (50 IU/kg) to diabetic mice showed that MEFs reduced blood glucose levels (BGLs) significantly compared with a commercial surfactant-based formulation by increasing the bioavailability of insulin in the systemic circulation and sustained the insulin level for a much longer period (half-life > 24 h) than subcutaneous injection (half-life 1.32 h). When [Chl][C18:2] SAIL-based MEF was transdermally administered, it reduced the BGL by 56% of its initial value. The MEFs were biocompatible and nontoxic (cell viability > 90%). They remained stable at room temperature for 3 months and their biological activity was retained for 4 months at 4 °C. We believe SAIL-based MEFs will alter current approaches to insulin therapy and may be a potential transdermal nanocarrier for protein and peptide delivery.

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