Alec Falkenham, a PhD student in the Dalhousie University's pathology department, has come up with a new approach that makes use of the natural healing process that our skin activates after it is tattooed.
When we get a tattoo, the pigment from the ink deposits into the skin where it is then consumed by white blood cells named "macrophages."
"Macrophages are known as the big eaters of the immune system. They eat foreign material, like tattoo pigment, to protect the surrounding tissue," said Falkenham.
Over time, the macrophages that formed the tattoo are replaced by new macrophages, which cause the tattoo to blur and fade. Falkenham's technology, Bisphosphonate Liposomal Tattoo Removal (BLTR), targets the macrophages that contain the pigment for removal.
"BLTR is a cream that you put on your skin," he said, describing how BLTR makes use of a lipid-vesicle, or liposome, that his team has created.
The BLTR technology is a safer alternative than current tattoo removal processes such as lasers. By acting as a "Trojan horse" in their drug delivery, liposomes target cells that can consume them, specifically
those that contain pigment.
This limits potential side effects to the small number of surrounding cells that do not contain pigment.


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