The nail provides a functional protection to the fingertips and surrounding tissue from external injuries. The nail plate consists of three layers including dorsal, intermediate, and ventral layers. The dorsal layer consists of compact, hard keratins, limiting topical drug delivery through the nail. In this study, we investigate the application of fractional CO2 laser that produces arrays of microthermal ablation zones (MAZs) to facilitate drug delivery in the nails. We utilized optical coherence tomography (OCT) for real-time monitoring of the laser-skin tissue interaction, sparing the patient from an invasive surgical sampling procedure. The time-dependent OCT intensity variance was used to observe drug diffusion through an induced MAZ array. Subsequently, nails were treated with cream and liquid topical drugs to investigate the feasibility and diffusion efficacy of laser-assisted drug delivery. Our results show that fractional CO2 laser improves the effectiveness of topical drug delivery in the nail plate and that OCT could potentially be used for in vivo monitoring of the depth of laser penetration as well as real-time observations of drug delivery.
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