How permanent are permanent tattoos?
Science & Tech / /
We are most probably getting the tattoo work quite wrong and way simpler than it is. A new research suggests that our bodies might have an intriguing way of accepting and handling this decorations on out skin—and the findings could help in improving the process of removing them.
Most dominant is the idea that tattoo needles inject ink into the skin deep enough that it stays put. In fact, according to the explanation by experts, tattoo needles are more like the nib of a fountain pen which suspended the ink at the end of it when an artist dips the tool into a well. As the tip of the needle pierces a hole in the skin, capillary action draws the ink down into the dermis.
That’s how it gets into the skin, but what makes it stay?
Science has already proven that the existence of tattoos on the skin is not due to ink-saturated skin cells, but by immune cells known as macrophages. These white blood cells appear in our body when we are wounded. Since our body recognize the stubbing needle as an injury it’s not surprising that they show right then. The macrophages chow down, and their membranes keep the ink right in place for longer time.
Then the question is how this white blood cells stay put for so long?
According to a recent study, tattoos stay in place even after macrophages die leaving the ink among your skin cells. When the immune cells wither, they leave behind the ink. Still it’s not simple as it sounds, it is described as a battle between your proclivity for body art and your immune system that never stops.
In order to test how this works, scientists tattooed a mouse. As it was confirmed that the pigment was locked away inside macrophages, the researchers noted no visible changes in the tattoo even after the macrophages were destroyed. Then they grafted a tattooed piece of skin from one mouse to another, and noted six weeks later that the ink had mostly been ingested again and this time by macrophages native to the new host, that recognized the ink as a safety threat. The researchers are quite confident that this is what happen in our bodies too, though it’s possible that our macrophages last longer.
Tattoos won’t stay forever on your skin the way they were the first day you had it. Study authors think macrophage turnover could also be responsible for that.
“Fading is likely due to the fact that during the successive capture-release-capture cycles that we have described, minute amounts of released pigments are drained away from the skin,” Malissen, the lead author of the study, said in a statement.
He and his colleagues are convinced that their results could lead to more effective ways of tattoo removal, though the exact mechanisms are still a little vague. As they claim, if the tattoo removal process involved temporarily killing or removing macrophages with the use of certain antibodies, the whole process could theoretically be ended more quickly.