In the future, there could be no need for laser tattoo removal. Alec Falkenham, a PhD student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, claims he has developed a tattoo-removal cream that could potentially save a lot of people a good deal of expense and pain. Whether it was a drunken mistake, or simply a change of heart, not everyone ends up happy with their tattoo. Tattoo removal normally involves lasers, scars and a considerable amount of pain; this new development could prevent the need for laser removal in future.
When getting a tattoo, ink is repeatedly injected into the skin. This triggers an immune response in the activation of macrophages, a form of white blood cells. There are two populations of macrophages involved: one absorbs the ink and transports it away to the lymph nodes for disposal, the second population absorbs the pigment and stores the ink in an inactive form. This second population becomes the tattoo. Over time these macrophages are replaced by new cells that do not contain pigment, hence causing tattoos fade and blur on the skin.
The new cream, Bisphosphate Liposomal Tattoo Removal (BLTR), targets the macrophages responsible for storing the ink in the skin. When applied, the cream activates new macrophages that will dispose of the pigment, draining them into the lymph nodes, resulting in the tattoo fading rapidly.
Typically during tattoo removal, a laser is used to break down the ink particles that are then absorbed, a process which can be painful and leave lasting scars. This new method of ‘cream’ removal offers a safer and less painful method to remove past mistakes. Furthermore, the cream appears to be relatively inexpensive to produce. Falkenham estimates that removing a tattoo via this method will be cheap; around £3 for a 10-by10-cenimetre area.
The group responsible for developing the cream have recently received funding to further develop the BLTR cream. It is expected that with further research and development, the product will eventually be brought to market.
Image: Jack Roberts