Sunday, April 14, 2024

Researchers develop painless, self-administered tattoos

Instead of sitting in a tattoo chair for hours enduring painful punctures, imagine getting tattooed by a skin patch containing microscopic needles. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed low-cost, painless, and bloodless tattoos that can be self-administered and have many applications, from medical alerts to tracking neutered animals to cosmetics.

“We’ve miniaturized the needle so that it’s painless, but still effectively deposits tattoo ink in the skin,” said Mark Prausnitz, principal investigator on the paper. “This could be a way not only to make medical tattoos more accessible, but also to create new opportunities for cosmetic tattoos because of the ease of administration.”

Prausnitz, Regents’ professor and J. Erskine Love Jr. Chair in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, presented the research in the journal iScience, with former Georgia Tech postdoctoral fellow Song Li as co-author.

Tattoos are used in medicine to cover up scars, guide repeated cancer radiation treatments, or restore nipples after breast surgery. Tattoos also can be used instead of bracelets as medical alerts to communicate serious medical conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, and allergies.

Various cosmetic products using microneedles are already on the market — mostly for anti-aging — but developing microneedle technology for tattoos is new. Prausnitz, a veteran in this area, has studied microneedle patches for years to painlessly administer drugs and vaccines to the skin without the need for hypodermic needles.

“We saw this as an opportunity to leverage our work on microneedle technology to make tattoos more accessible,” Prausnitz said. “While some people are willing to accept the pain and time required for a tattoo, we thought others might prefer a tattoo that is simply pressed onto the skin and does not hurt.”

In this way, the microneedles can be pressed into the skin just once and then dissolve, leaving the ink in the skin after a few minutes without bleeding.

Although most microneedle patches for pharmaceuticals or cosmetics have dozens or hundreds of microneedles arranged in a square or circle, microneedle-patch tattoos imprint a design that can include letters, numbers, symbols, and images. By arranging the microneedles in a specific pattern, each microneedle acts like a pixel to create a tattoo image in any shape or pattern.

The researchers start with a mould containing microneedles in a pattern that forms an image. They fill the microneedles in the mould with tattoo ink and add a patch backing for convenient handling. The patch is then applied to the skin for a few minutes, during which time the microneedles dissolve and release the tattoo ink. Tattoo inks of various colors can be incorporated into the microneedles, including black-light ink that can only be seen when illuminated with ultraviolet light.

Tattoos typically use large needles to puncture repeatedly into the skin to get a good image, a time-consuming and painful process. The Georgia Tech team has developed microneedles that are smaller than a grain of sand and are made of tattoo ink encased in a dissolvable matrix.

 

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-09-painless-tattoos-self-administered.html

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