Tattoo ink travels through the body in nano-form, scientists reveal
17 Sep 2017
Researchers at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) have discovered tattoo ink travels inside the body in micro and nanoparticle forms.
Author on the study Bernhard Heese said: "We already knew that pigments from tattoos would travel to the lymph nodes because of visual evidence: the lymph nodes become tinted with the colour of the tattoo. It is the response of the body to clean the site of entrance of the tattoo.
“What we didn't know is that they do it in a nano form, which implies that they may not have the same behaviour as the particles at a micro level. And that is the problem: we don't know how nanoparticles react.”
The researchers claim their study is the first to provide analytical evidence of the transport of various organic and inorganic pigments and toxic element impurities, as well as in depth characterisation of the pigments ex vivo in tattooed tissues.
ESRF scientist and study author Hiram Castillo said: "When someone wants to get a tattoo, they are often very careful in choosing a parlour where they use sterile needles that haven't been used previously. No one checks the chemical composition of the colours, but our study shows that maybe they should.”
Looking ahead, the team will inspect further samples of patients with adverse effects in their tattoos in order to discover links with chemical and structural properties of the pigments used to create tattoos.
A full account of the research has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.
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