Tattooing is often seen as a form of body art, and usually does not require advice from health professionals. However, a few recent studies have suggested why paediatricians and doctors should start caring about it.

1. MIT: Tattoo ink to benefit diabetic patients

A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Harvard Medical School have developed tattoo inks that change colour to help diabetic patients.

“The concept of utilising biosensing tattoos offers an attractive alternative for health monitoring in vivo for a range of medical complications, including diabetes, acidosis, alkalosis, electrolyte imbalance, and hypertension,” the researchers write.

This image shows the colour changes of each biosensing ink. Other tattoo inks developed by the team, from MIT, monitor the body's salt (a) and pH levels (b). The researchers' glucose-sensing ink is shown in column c. Photo credit: Xin Liu, Katia Vega/The Daily Mail
This image shows the colour changes of each biosensing ink. Other tattoo inks developed by the team, from MIT, monitor the body's salt (a) and pH levels (b). The researchers' glucose-sensing ink is shown in column c. Photo credit: Xin Liu, Katia Vega/The Daily Mail

The project called Dermal Abyss have so far developed three different inks that changes according to the pH levels, sodium levels and blood sugar levels. The ink that detects changes in blood sugar turns from blue to brown as blood sugar levels rise.

Although still in their early stages, the research aims to help diabetic patients who have to regularly check their blood sugar level and might potentially save lives.

Currently, diabetic patients measure their blood glucose levels by using a lancing device to pierce their finger to take a small drop of blood and applying it to a testing strip that will display their blood glucose levels. This process may be time consuming.

Susan Babey, PhD, a senior research scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, Centre for Health Policy Research remarks that “this (technology) increases the chances that more patients will find a monitoring method with which they are comfortable and that makes it more likely that they will regularly monitor blood glucose levels.”



2. Nanoparticles found in tattoo ink may cause cancer

Contrary to the good news for diabetic patients, another recent study has discovered that tattoo ink might contain nanoparticles that persist in lymph nodes – and may lead to cancer.

A study from Hiram Castillo of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France stated that chemicals like titanium dioxide which is found in tattoo ink can leak into the bloodstream – and remain there for life, while migrating to the lymph nodes, and causing them to swell. Swollen lymph nodes would make it harder for patients to fight infections.

Microscopic particles found in tattoo ink can leak into lymph nodes, causing it to swell and affect the immune system.
Microscopic particles found in tattoo ink can leak into lymph nodes, causing it to swell and affect the immune system.


The particular ingredient that is also found in food additives and paint has been associated with delayed healing, itching and skin irritation.

“We already knew that pigments from tattoos would travel to the lymph nodes because of visual evidence: the lymph nodes become tinted with the colour of the tattoo. What we didn’t know is that they do it in a nano form.”

Using X-ray fluorescence measurements, the researchers identified particles in the skin and the lymph nodes. The result revealed that only nano-scale particles made it into the lymph nodes and stays there for a long time.

The team of researchers also added that with the result developed, the next step is to look for evidence of adverse effects, including inflammation.

3. Paediatricians release tattooing guide

Earlier in September, the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) released its first ever recommendations on tattoos and body piercing in a clinical report in the journal Pediatrics. The report was a result of the increasing number of teenagers and young adult possessing tattoo and different types of body art – with three out of 10 Americans reported having at least one tattoo.

The Harris Poll result in 2015 revealed that three out of 10 Americans have at least one tattoo. Source: The Harris Poll
The Harris Poll result in 2015 revealed that three out of 10 Americans have at least one tattoo. Source: The Harris Poll

Dr Cora Breuner, a member of the division of adolescent medicine at Seattle Children's Hospital who chaired the AAP Committee on Adolescence that wrote the recommendations said that she wants doctors and other health care professionals to be able to appropriately guide patients and their parents when a tattoo or body piercing is being discussed.

One of the recommendations provided by The AAP includes having pediatricians talk with adolescent patients about the importance of hygienic practices in piercing and tattoo parlours. The hygienic practices outlined include usage of new disposable gloves, needles from a sealed and sterile container and fresh unused ink poured into a new disposable container with each client.

Paediatricians also advice patients on medications that inhibit the immune system and can affect the healing process, such as steroids to avoid both tattoos and piercings.

Patients who opted for the procedure should watch for signs of infection such as redness that spreads beyond the tattoo or piercing, increasing pain, or fever and consult a doctor immediately if it happens. The AAP concluded that a thorough research should be done before getting a tattoo. “These services have come a long way, safety-wise; but it's best to proceed with caution,” advised Breuner. MIMS



Read more:
Graphene 'tattoo' detects diabetic glucose level, administers medication
Tattooing primes immune system to combat common bugs
Temporary “tattoo” keeps tabs on blood alcohol levels

Sources:
https://www.healthline.com/health-news/tattoos-could-help-with-diabetes#4
https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2017/sep/12/tattoo-ink-contaminants-lymph-nodes
https://www.inquisitr.com/4492794/tattoos-may-cause-cancer-due-to-chemicals-in-ink-getting-into-the-bloodstream-and-lymph-nodes-says-new-study/
http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/50307/title/Tattoo-Ink-Nanoparticles-Persist-in-Lymph-Nodes/
http://time.com/4941937/tattoos-body-piercing-kids/
http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/09/18/551212312/teen-wants-a-tattoo-pediatricians-say-heres-how-to-do-it-safely
https://www.fastcodesign.com/90127275/these-tattoos-change-colors-based-on-the-health-of-your-body