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Selective induction of apoptosis in the hamster flank sebaceous gland organ by a topical liposome 5-α-reductase inhibitor: A treatment strategy for acne


Robert M. Hoffman, Ph.D., AntiCancer, 7917 Ostrow Street, San Diego, CA 92111, USA. Email:


Acne is a very widespread cosmesis problem. Isotretinoin, a synthetic oral retinoid is used to treat acne, which is androgen dependent. Numerous side-effects occur from this treatment. 5-α-Reductase plays a critical role in normal and pathological androgen-dependent processes. We have taken the approach to develop a selective, effective, topically-applied 5-α-reductase inhibitor to modify unwanted or pathological processes in the pilosebaceous unit such as acne. Toward this goal, we have previously developed a selective liposome hair follicle targeting system. We demonstrate in this report that the 5-α-reductase inhibitor N,N-diethyl-4-methyl-3-oxo-4-aza-5α-androstane-17β-carboxamide (4-MA) incorporated into liposomes induces apoptosis and inhibits growth of the dihydrotestosterone (DHT)-dependent hamster flank organ sebaceous gland. We have compared topical application of liposome 4-MA and solvent-formulated 4-MA and observed selective efficacy of topical application of liposome 4-MA by the reduction of size and induction of apoptosis only in the treated hamster flank organ. Apoptosis induced by liposome 4-MA in the treated flank organ sebaceous gland cells was observed both by assays for DNA fragments (transferase deoxytidyl uridine end labeling) and by observation of condensed and fragmented nuclei. When 4-MA was topically applied formulated in ethanol and glycerol without liposomes, the selective efficacy was lost. Liposome 4-MA did not significantly affect prostate weight, testosterone/DHT ratios or bodyweight gain compared to controls indicating safety as well as efficacy of topical application of liposome 4-MA for pathological processes such as acne.