Not-so-proud tattoo owners could soon find themselves freed of their dodgy inks for as little as £3.
All thanks to 27-year-old inventor and PhD student, Alec Falkenham.
Falkenham is in the process of developing a cream which he claims will make tattoo ink fade away.
If all goes to plan, the days of painful – and not to mention, expensive – tattoo removal surgery could well and truly be over.
Speaking to CBC news, Falkenham revealed: “When comparing it to laser-based tattoo removal, in which you see the burns, the scarring, the blisters; in this case, we’ve designed a drug that doesn’t really have much off-target effect.”
So how does it work?
When you get a tattoo, ink is injected into the skin. This creates an immune response whereby cells called macrophages move into the area and essentially “eat up” the ink.
These cells carry some of the ink to the body’s lymph nodes. But some of the macrophages which are filled with ink remain where they are, which makes the tattoo visible under the skin.
Falkenham’s cream targets the macrophages that have remained where the tattoo is.
The process is simple: new macrophages move in to “eat” the pigment-filled macrophages. They then move on to the lymph nodes, eventually taking all of the dye with them.
The tattoo will then gradually fade away.
“We’re not targeting any of the normal skin cells, so you won’t see a lot of inflammation,” added Falkenham. “In fact, based on the process that we’re actually using, we don’t think there will be any inflammation at all and it would actually be anti-inflammatory.”
He is currently looking to patent his technology alongside Dalhousie University’s Industry Liaison and Innovation office.
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Although Falkenham is unsure when the cream will be available commercially, he estimates that it will cost as little as £3 to treat a 10cm x 10cm area.
Speaking about the PhD student’s achievements, Andrea McCormick, manager of health and life sciences at ILI said: “Alec is a trail blazer in tattoo removal.
“His initial research has shown great results and his next stage of research will build on those results, developing his technology into a product that can eventually be brought to market.”
But while it might sound like a great idea, it’s important to bare in mind that the cream is still being tested on animals, says Lucy Millar-Hume, nurse at sk:n clinics.
“The cream is in very early stages of trials as it’s only being tested on a pig at the moment. He will need to do extensive trials on various types of tattoos before he could prove this treatment is worth pursuing.
“When people have come to consult me who have used similar creams, they haven’t had a success in removing the tattoo,” she adds.
“They need laser to continue their treatment. I don’t think anything will ever entirely replace laser.”
Meanwhile Dr Nitin Shori, medical director of the Pharmacy2u Online Doctor Service, warns: “People should always take care to ensure that anything they put on their skin has been properly clinically tested and is safe and appropriate for use.”