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Researchers develop painless temporary medical tattoos




Researchers in the US have developed low-cost, painless tattoos that can be self-administered, with many potential health applications.

Tattoos are routinely used in medicine to cover up scars, guide cancer treatment and communicate serious medical conditions like diabetes and allergies.

The new skin patch tattoos can do all of this without discomfort to the patient.

The patches contain microneedles, which are widely used in the cosmetics market primarily for anti-ageing purposes.

Principle investigator Mark Prausnitz has studied microneedle patches for years for the administration of drugs and vaccines without the need for hypodermic needles.

Prausnitz, who is Regents’ Professor and J. Erskine Love Jr. Chair at the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, said:

“We’ve miniaturised the needle so that it’s painless, but still effectively deposits tattoo ink in the skin.

“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.”

The needles are made of tattoo ink encased in a dissolvable matrix and are smaller than a grain of sand.

Most pharmaceutical microneedle patches contain dozens or hundreds of microneedles arranged in a square or circle.

But microneedle patch tattoos can imprint designs containing numbers, letters, symbols and images, with each microneedle acting like a pixel.

The researchers have also developed patches that are sensitive to light or temperature changes, only revealing the tattoo when required, providing patients with privacy.

The study showed that the tattoos could last for at least a year and are likely to be permanent.

Alternatively, they could be loaded with temporary ink to address a short term medical need.

Prausnitz said:

“The goal isn’t to replace all tattoos, which are often works of beauty created by tattoo artists.

“Our goal is to create new opportunities for patients, pets, and people who want a painless tattoo that can be easily administered.”

Image: Georgia Tech

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