There are potential advantages to detecting pharmacodynamic (PD) and pharmacokinetic (PK) endpoints in a tissue-based compartment such as the skin during the development of molecularly targeted drugs. We explored regional differences between inner arm, inner thigh, lower back and buttocks in 12 healthy male Caucasian volunteers in the tolerability of skin biopsy procedures; the Ki67 proliferation index; the frequency of detecting hair follicles and sweat glands; and the percentage of melanocytes. We also explored the amounts of tissue and protein obtained, and two separate methods of splitting biopsies for processing in mutually exclusive media. Biopsies from all body sites were well tolerated. The subjective ranking order was inner arm > buttocks = back > thigh. There were no statistically significant differences in the Ki67 labelling index (P > 0.05). The frequency of detecting sweat glands was the same in all body sites, but the frequency of detecting hair follicles was higher in back and buttock, compared to arm and thigh. The percentage of melanocytes was significantly lower in the buttocks compared to the back and thigh (P < 0.05), but not compared to the arm (P = 0.07). A 4-mm punch biopsy yielded a mean of 16.8 mg of tissue (range: 9-28 mg) and 160 microg of protein (range: 80-270 microg). In vivo sample splitting, by following a 2-mm punch with a 4-mm overpunch, had a shorter time from devascularisation to immersion into processing medium than ex vivo dissection of a 4-mm sample, which may be of importance to the assessment of labile endpoints. We conclude that multiple punch biopsies of the skin are feasible, with the buttocks representing the studied body site with the optimal balance between tolerability, hair follicle density and melanocyte density for obtaining tissue in which to assess PD and PK endpoints during drug development studies.
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