Dalhousie University student has come up with an alternative solution for tattoo removals
Alec Falkenham, a PHD student of pathology has created a skin cream that relies on the body’s own white blood cells (or macrophages), to remove tattoo ink from the pigments of one’s skin.
The tattoo removal solution aims to be both a cost effective, and pain free process says Falkenham; “Relative to laser-based therapies which can take, you know, well over a year and cost thousands of dollars, what we’ve kind of created is a low-cost solution”. While it’s too early to judge precisely what the end patient would incur, it is currently produced at less than a nickel for each square centimetre of skin.
Macrophages (white blood cells) are known as the “big eaters” of the immune system. They in effect “eat” foreign substances to protect surrounding tissues. If you’ve ever noticed a portion of your tattoo “rejecting” ink, these little guys are the culprit.
It’s interesting to note that Macrophages make up 50% of the biological tattooing process – when one is tattooed certain types of Macrophages go into action, one with the purpose of attacking the ink for removal, and another with the purpose of holding onto the ink (a process scientists cannot explain).
The solution itself is called Bisphosphonate Liposomal Tattoo Removal, or BLRT for short. Falkenham tells the Globe and Mail that the cream works by delivering a “trojan horse” and “similar to the way a macrophage eats up the tattoo ink, it eats up our Trojan horse, which carries a drug inside.” That drug than kills off the microscopic Macrophages and allows for the ink to be released from ones pigments.
While only in the early stages of development, Falkenham believes that the cream would only need to be applied once a week, and take roughly a couple of months to fully remove a tattoo.
Amazingly, any preliminary tests (on mice) have shown no side effects whatsoever, not even dry skin.
Recieving a patent in September, the product has set it’s sights on the market. In the next few weeks tests will be arranged to apply the cream on pigs, who have a similar skin structure to humans. Providing these trials are successful, the eventual clinical testing of this product should follow suit.
Update Feb, 16th: Listen to Falkenham explain Bisphosphonate Liposomal Tattoo Removal
Image Credit: Bruce Bottomley Photos