Most people have been scared of needles at one point or another. But now, that fear may be a thing of the past — at least when it comes to tattoos. Recently, researchers put together their heads and developed something rather remarkable: Low-cost, bloodless, painless tattoos. However, this is about far more than art, as the microneedles can be used in medical tattoos.
The science and other stuff to know
Tattoos have diverse applications. We mostly know them as body decorations and, in some cultures, social implications of wealth, leadership, social class, or divinity. However, doctors and veterinarians also use them to store critical information about patients’ health. In addition, tattoos are widespread in the cosmetic industry to cover scars or augment missing body parts, like in nipple-areola reconstruction therapy.
Unfortunately, tattoo needles are excessively large, which causes bleeding — and pain — and increases infection risk. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have been working on miniaturizing the needles to solve this issue. And it seems that they’ve finally done it, according to research published in Cell.
The new microneedles are smaller than a grain of sand and consist of tattoo ink encased in a dissolvable matrix. To create a tattoo, one must press the microneedle patch into the skin and let the ink dissolve. The team asserts that they could make colored tattoos and tattoos only visible with ultraviolet illumination. Both stayed on the skin for at least one year. Moreover, a QR code could be embedded within the tattoo to relay important information.
Tattoo needles’ miniaturization diversifies cosmetic tattoo applications. For example, almost anyone can self-administer a tattoo whenever they feel like it. Also, doctors and veterinarians now have a safe way of creating tattoos that can record medical information, such as diabetic medical alerts, vaccination status, or other personal health information.
Does this mean that the days for tattoo artists are numbered? Absolutely not. The Georgia Tech team hasn’t developed this technology to replace tattoo artists. Instead, they aim to create new opportunities for people who want to get simple tattoos but are too scared and also safer alternatives for doctors. “We saw this as an opportunity to leverage our work on microneedle technology to make tattoos more accessible,” Mark Prausnitz, a Chemical Engineer at Georgia Tech, said in a press release. “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.”