Human Nail Plate Modifications Induced by Onychomycosis: Implications for Topical Therapy

A. Baraldi, S. A. Jones*, S. Guesné, M. J. Traynor, W. J. McAuley, M. B. Brown, S. Murdan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Through the characterisation of the human onchomycotic nail plate this study aimed to inform the design of new topical ungual formulations. Methods: The mechanical properties of the human nail were characterised using a Lloyd tensile strength tester. The nail's density was determined via pycnometry and the nail's ultrastructure by electron microscopy. Raman spectroscopy analysed the keratin disulphide bonds within the nail and its permeability properties were assessed by quantifying water and rhodamine uptake. Results: Chronic in vivo nail plate infection increased human nailplate thickness (healthy 0.49 ± 0.15 mm; diseased 1.20 ± 0.67 mm), but reduced its tensile strength (healthy 63.7 ± 13.4 MPa; diseased 41.7 ± 5.0 MPa) and density (healthy 1.34 ± 0.01 g/cm<sup>3</sup>; diseased 1.29 ± 0.00 g/cm<sup>3</sup>). Onchomycosis caused cell-cell separation, without disrupting the nail disulfide bonds or desmosomes. The diseased and healthy nails showed equivalent water uptake profiles, but the rhodamine penetration was 4-fold higher in the diseased nails using a PBS vehicle and 3 -fold higher in an ethanol/PBS vehicle. Conclusions: Onchomycotic nails presented a thicker but more porous barrier, and its eroded intracellular matrix rendered the tissue more permeable to topically applied chemicals when an aqueous vehicle was used.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1626-1633
Number of pages8
JournalPharmaceutical Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • barrier
  • fungal
  • nail
  • onchomycosis
  • topical drug delivery


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