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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

Table of Contents

Abstract Volume 19 (2014) pp 310-313

A Low-Cost Method for Measuring the Permeability of a Pharmaceutical Drug in a Diffusion Cell

Megan Kitson, Heather Sheppard, Joanne C. Morris, Nicola M. Howarth ‡,*, and Arno Kraft†,*

†Institute of Chemical Sciences, School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, United Kingdom,; ‡Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, United Kingdom,
Received June 25, 2014. Accepted September 27, 2014.

Published: 20 October 2014

Abstract. A low-cost, in vitro laboratory experiment has been developed that mimics the absorption of a pharmaceutical drug in the body. It allows undergraduate chemistry students to gain experience in the measurement of drug permeability coefficients, a key indicator used by the pharmaceutical industry to identify the ease of absorption of any new drug candidate. The experiment requires a diffusion cell, coated membrane, peristaltic pump and UV-Vis spectrophotometer. The method has been validated by determining the permeability coefficients for a selection of acidic, basic and non-ionizable drugs. Using this assay, it is possible to classify drugs as exhibiting high or low permeability in a fast, facile and reliable manner.

Key Words: Laboratories and Demonstrations; biochemistry; pharmaceutical chemistry; pharmaceutical drugs; pharmaceutical analysis; permeability; upper-division undergraduate; UV-Vis spectroscopy

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

Article in PDF format (223 KB) HTML format

Supporting Materials:

Detailed experimental and analytical procedures, results for other drugs studied, discussion of reproducibility and scope are given in the supporting materials. Typical analysis spreadsheets for determining permeability coefficients and fitting “log permeability vs. pH profiles” are also provided (1.14 MB).

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