How tattoos are maintained by macrophages can also be key to their removal

A team of researchers led by Sandrine Henri and Bernard Malissen of the Centre d’Immunologie de Marseille-Luminy has discovered that, though a tattoo may be forever, the skin cells that carry the tattoo pigment are not. Instead, the researchers say, macrophages can pass on the pigment to new cells when they die. In their study published March 6 in JEM, “Unveiling skin macrophage dynamics explains both tattoo persistence and strenuous removal”, the team suggests ways to improve the ability of laser surgery to remove unwanted tattoos. 

“We think that, when tattoo pigment-laden macrophages die during the course of adult life, neighboring macrophages recapture the released pigments and insure in a dynamic manner the stable appearance and long-term persistence of tattoos,” Henri says. 

Malissen explains further, “Tattoo removal can be likely improved by combining laser surgery with the transient ablation of the macrophages present in the tattoo area. As a result, the fragmented pigment particles generated using laser pulses will not be immediately recaptured, a condition increasing the probability of having them drained away via the lymphatic vessels.”

 

Source: Rockefeller University Press

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