Menu

Hungry Macrophages Keep Tattoos on Mice’s Skin

A new study reveals that a constant stream of ink-gobbling immune cells helps hold tattoos in place.

Mar 7, 2018
Diana Kwon

PIXABAY, MBRAGION

Cycling macrophages that guzzle ink on the skin of mice help keep tattoos in place, according to a study published yesterday (March 6) in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

This research “shows that tattoos are in fact much more dynamic than we previously had believed,” Johann Gudjonsson, a professor of immunology and dermatology at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the study, tells The New York Times.

The investigation began when a group of researchers in France, while examining the skin of black mice, discovered macrophages that consumed pigment particles after melanocytes, the cells that produced them, died.

To see if immune cells were also present in tattoos, the team inked the tails of albino mice and found that the macrophages were, indeed, ingesting the ink particles on the tattooed skin. When the scientists killed off the immune cells, the tattoos remained—new ink-imbibing macrophages had turned up to take the dead cells’ places.

“The fact that macrophages hardly move within the skin explains why the tattoo is pretty stable,” study coauthor Sandrine Henri, a researcher at the Immunology Center of Marseille-Luminy, tells Scientific American. “Moreover, the pigment particles present in tattoo ink are quite big—and owing to their size they aren’t drained into the lymph nodes via the lymphatic vessels. So as soon as they are released by dying macrophages, they remain stuck until another macrophage ingests them.”

The study “really does provide a strategy to remove unwanted tattoos, in combination with conventional approaches, which could be especially useful for removing small tattoos in a well-defined location,” Simon Yona, an immunologist at University College London who was not involved in the new work, tells Scientific American.

Some physicians are already targeting the immune system to aid tattoo removal. According to the Times, Jared Jagdeo, a dermatologist at the University of California, Davis, has been using anti-inflammatory ointments after laser treatments since 2014. “It makes a difference,” he says.

See “Tattoo Ink Nanoparticles Persist in Lymph Nodes

November 2018

Intelligent Science

Wrapping our heads around human smarts

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

The Lab of the Future: Alinity Poised to Reinvent Clinical Diagnostic Testing and Help Improve Healthcare

The Lab of the Future: Alinity Poised to Reinvent Clinical Diagnostic Testing and Help Improve Healthcare

Every minute counts when waiting for accurate diagnostic test results to guide critical care decisions, making today's clinical lab more important than ever. In fact, nearly 70 percent of critical care decisions are driven by a diagnostic test.

LGC announces new, integrated, global portfolio brand, Biosearch Technologies, representing genomic tools for mission critical customer applications

LGC announces new, integrated, global portfolio brand, Biosearch Technologies, representing genomic tools for mission critical customer applications

LGC’s Genomics division announced it is transforming its branding under LGC, Biosearch Technologies, a unified portfolio brand integrating optimised genomic analysis technologies and tools to accelerate scientific outcomes.

DefiniGEN licenses CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology from Broad Institute to develop cell models for optimized metabolic disease drug development

DefiniGEN licenses CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology from Broad Institute to develop cell models for optimized metabolic disease drug development

DefiniGEN Ltd are pleased to announce the commercial licensing of CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology from Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in the USA, to develop human cell disease models to support preclinical metabolic disease therapeutic programmes.