Tattoo Removal: New Study Finds Macrophages Should Be Targeted

Laser tattoo removal has come a long way and there are different laser modalities that handle this procedure. There’s still a concern over the appearance of the tattoo despite it being treated multiple times. However, it was found that the persistence of tattoos lies in the immune system.

According to a new study by a team of French researchers, macrophages should be targeted for tattoo persistence to be suppressed (Baranska et al., 2018). Macrophages could store the ink, which could explain tattoo persistence. 

The researchers used mice to demonstrate how macrophages worked. Diphtheria toxin was used and worked in eliminating macrophages. It was also found that the researchers grafted the tattoo from one mice to another and the ink persisted, so it seems macrophages still functioned. The researchers recommended that laser surgery plus ablation of macrophages could hinder the function of the cells.

So far, what is possible is to use multiple laser modalities to remove the tattoo and another is to use imiquimod (Shah and Aurangabadkar, 2015).

A combination of lasers was done to remove a tattoo for one study. The researchers of that study used both a CO2 laser and a QS Ruby laser (Weiss and Geronemus, 2011). Using an ablative laser could help take out the pigments and may definitely accelerate the wound healing. In their research, they had three cases, in which no adverse effects occurred.

Shah and Aurangabadkar (2015) also had a similar study, wherein the researchers suggested a fractional laser would be best to complement the QSL.

The study definitely changes how physicians should approach removing tattoos. So far, Picosecond and Q-Switched Lasers are the go-to lasers for tattoo removal. There are preferences for every provider, and there are different lasers studied for different skin tones as well.

The researchers’ recent breakthroughs regarding targeting macrophages would definitely bring to light how physicians should approach tattoo removal. Physicians must further examine how to suppress macrophages in terms of tattoo persistence.