Retinoic acid (RA) is an approved treatment for skin photoaging induced by ultraviolet (UVA). Topically applied RA is mainly located in the stratum corneum (SC) with limited diffusion into the deeper strata. A delivery system capable of facilitating dermal delivery and cellular internalization for RA is critical for a successful photoaging therapy. Two delivery approaches, namely nanoparticles and laser ablation, were combined to improve RA's absorption efficacy and safety. The nanoparticle absorption enhancement by the lasers was compared between full-ablative (Er:YAG) and fractional (CO2) modalities. We fabricated poly-L-lactic acid (PLA) and PLA/poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) nanoparticles by an emulsion-solvent evaporation technique. The mean size of PLA and PLA/PLGA nanocarriers was 237 and 222 nm, respectively. The RA encapsulation percentage in both nanosystems was > 96 %. PLA and PLA/PLGA nanocarriers promoted RA skin deposition by 5- and 3-fold compared to free control. The ablative lasers further enhanced the skin deposition of RA-loaded nanoparticles, with the full-ablative laser showing greater permeation enhancement than the fractional mode. The skin biodistribution assay evaluated by confocal and fluorescence microscopies demonstrated that the laser-assisted nanoparticle delivery achieved a significant dermis and follicular accumulation. The cell-based study indicated a facile uptake of the nanoparticles into the human dermal fibroblasts. The nanoparticulate RA increased type I collagen and elastin production in the UVA-treated fibroblasts. A reduction of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1 was also highlighted in the photoaging cells. The calculation of therapeutic index (TI) by multiplying collagen/elastin elevation percentage and skin deposition predicted better anti-photoaging performance in Er:YAG laser-assisted nanoparticle delivery than CO2 laser. Nanoencapsulation of RA decreased the cytotoxicity against skin fibroblasts. In vivo skin tolerance test on a nude mouse showed less skin damage after topical application of the nanoparticles than free RA. Our results hypothesized that the laser-mediated nanoparticle delivery provided an efficient and safe use for treating photoaging.
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