Posted by Jack Brymer on 2012-08-17

When Georgetown (KY) College senior-to-be Rachel Woodall received a Howard Hughes Medical Institute research grant to use as she wished, she chose Samford's McWhorter School of Pharmacy because she had heard good things about the school and particularly its research program. She was not disappointed, she said on the eve of completing her 10-week study in mid-August. In fact, she acknowledged that she is applying for admission to the school this fall.

"It was a good experience," she said of her project, which was seeking to improve transdermal drug delivery using PLOgel (pluronic lecithin organogel). This method seeks to deliver anti-nausea drugs via the skin versus orally.

Compounding pharmacists often put different medications into PLO-Gel for this purpose. Woodall's research, under the direction of Professor John Arnold in the pharmacy school, was to look at different anti-emetics which alter the pH level, as well as the base formulation.

"Transdermal drug delivery involves the passage of drugs through the top layers of skin into the bloodstream," she noted in her power-point presentation. "Samples are extracted from Franz diffusion cells to help determine the release and absorption rate of tested drugs. "

According to Arnold, pig skin, which is most nearly like human skin, is used as a barrier for the drug penetration.  The professor secures the animal skin from a meat market in nearby Alexandria, Ala.

Another advantage of research at McWhorter is the use of a scanning electron microscope (SEM), in Samford's biology department which is located nearby. "The morphology of the skin is studied using an SEM microscope which allows the researcher to look at individual layers of the skin," Woodall noted.

While the outcome of research is not always definitive, Woodall said that she will continue to study the data she has developed thus far. "We're able to determine that by raising the pH level, the drugs are able to penetrate through the skin at as higher rate," she said.

A native of Brodhead, Ky., the senior is majoring in chemistry and has a goal of obtaining a PharmD degree.  While she has worked in a community pharmacy in the past, she said the research component was most educational and a learning experience.

She said she had learned a lot working with Arnold. "He has been very helpful," she said.

Arnold is an assistant professor of pharmaceutics, which deals primarily with how the drug is delivered to the body. He works in collaboration with the Pharmaceutical Science Research Institute (PRSI) in the MSOP team, which is directed by Greg Gorman, along with Bruce Waldrop, who is also chair of the pharmaceutical administrative and social sciences department, of which Arnold is a member and in which the PRSI is located. 

A pharmacy graduate of Auburn University, Arnold holds graduate degrees and studies from the University of Alabama-Birmingham and Duke University. He has been a clinical and staff pharmacist and was voted Pharmacists of the Year by Children's Hospital of Alabama in 2003.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.