An ex vivo skin model to probe modulation of local cutaneous arachidonic acid inflammation pathway


  • Charles M. Heard Cardiff University



skin, inflammation, COX-2, PGE2, ex vivo


There is a need for inexpensive and reliable means to determine the modulation of cutaneous inflammation. The method outlined in this article draws together a number of scientific techniques and makes use of generally unwanted biological tissues as a means of determining skin inflammation ex vivo, and focuses on probing aspects of the arachidonic acid inflammation pathway. Freshly excised skin contains elevated levels of short-lived inducible cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and, under viable conditions, COX-2 and its eicosanoid products will continue to be produced until tissue necrosis, providing a window of time in which relative levels can be probed to determine exacerbation due to an upregulating factor or downregulation due the presence of an agent exerting anti-inflammatory activity. Ex vivo porcine skin, mounted in Franz diffusion cells, is dosed topically with the xenobiotic challenge and then techniques such as Western blotting and immunohistochemistry can then be used to probe relative COX-2 levels on a semi-quantitative or qualitative level. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or LCMS can be used to determine relative prostaglandin E-2 (PGE-2) levels. Thus far, the technique has been used to examine the effects of topically applied anti-inflammatories (betamethasone, ibuprofen, ketoprofen and methotrexate), natural products (fish oil, Devil’s claw extract and pomegranate rind extract) and drug delivery vehicle (polyNIPAM nanogels). Topically applied xenobiotics that modulate factors such as COX-2 and PGE-2 must penetrate the intact skin, and this provides direct evidence of overcoming the "barrier function" of the stratum corneum in order to target the viable epidermis in sufficient levels to be able to elicit such effects. This system has particular potential as a pre-clinical screening tool for those working on the development of topical delivery systems, and has the additional advantage of being in line with 3 Rs philosophy.

Author Biography

Charles M. Heard, Cardiff University

School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Reader in Pharmaceutical Chemistry


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How to Cite

Heard CM. An ex vivo skin model to probe modulation of local cutaneous arachidonic acid inflammation pathway. J Biol Methods [Internet]. 2020Oct.26 [cited 2021Sep.18];7(4):e138. Available from: