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Assessing the Impact of Ablative Fractional Laser on Skin Drug Uptake Using Laser Scanning Confocal Microscopy


tarl prow

Professor Tarl Prow

Director, Skin Research Centre

Miko Yamada

Dr Miko Yamada

Research Fellow



About the research

This study used laser scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM) to examine how an ablative fractional laser (AFXL) treatment, a common technique used to increase the absorption of topical agents in the skin, affects the uptake and distribution of a small hydrophilic test molecule, sodium fluorescein (NaF).

The researchers applied AFXL and NaF gel to excised human abdominal skin samples and used LSCM to measure the thickness of the coagulation zone (CZ) - the area around the ablated vertical channels created by the laser - and the fluorescence intensities (FI) of NaF up to four hours after application. 

Industry application

This research is relevant to the medical and cosmetic industries, particularly those involved in the development and application of laser treatments and topical drug delivery systems.

Study findings

The study found that the thickness of the CZ remained constant at 50 μm, and FI could be detected up to a depth of 160 μm. FI remained constant in the CZ up to four hours after NaF application, while in the surrounding skin, FI increased significantly over time but remained lower than FI in the CZ.

The study also found that AFXL-treated skin generated higher FI compared to non-laser treated skin in the epidermis and upper dermis at 60 minutes and four hours. 


Banzhaf CA, Lin LL, Dang N, Freeman M, Haedersdal M, Prow TW. The fractional laser-induced coagulation zone characterized over time by laser scanning confocal microscopy-A proof of concept study. Lasers Surg Med. 2018 Jan;50(1):70-77. doi: 10.1002/lsm.22758. Epub 2017 Nov 29. PMID: 29193173. 

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