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Developmental Biology - Allergic Reactions

Tatooing Can Create Allergic Reactions

Metal particles from tattoo needles can travel inside the body...

Allergic reactions are common side effects of tattoos — the pigments introduced under the skin being blamed. Now for the first time, researchers prove that nickel and chromium particles worn off the needle during tattooing also induce allergic reactions.

Nickle allergy in tatoo
Alergic reaction to tatoo pigment can present like
the raised and inflammed response above.

Tattooing has increased substantially in recent years, with some countries having up to 24% of their population tattooed. Adverse reactions from tattoos are common and, until now, researchers believed only the inks were to blame.
"There is more to tattoos than meet the eye. It is not only about the cleanliness of the parlour, the sterilization of the equipment or even about the pigments. Now we find that needle wear also has an impact on your body."

Hiram Castillo, one of the authors of the study and scientist at the ESRF.

In a new study published in the journal Particle and Fibre Toxicology, scientists reveal how chromium and nickel particles from tattoo needle wear gets cycled through the recipient's lymph nodes. Usually tattoo needles contain nickel (6-8%) and chromium (15-20%) both of which can prompt a high sensitization response in the general public as a tattoo allergy. Two years ago, the same research team found that pigments and metal impurities are transported through the lymph nodes as a nanoform, and can be found years after placement of the tattoo.

Ines Schreiver, corresponding author of the research and scientist at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Germany, explains how their detective work led them to needle wear and tear. "We were following up on our previous study, by trying to find the link between iron, chromium, nickel and ink color. After studying several human tissue samples and finding metallic components, we realized that there must be something else. We also tested around 50 ink samples without finding such metal particles and made sure that we hadn't contaminated the samples during sample preparation. Then we thought of testing the needle and that was our 'eureka' moment."
Their results showed that when the tattoo ink contains titanium dioxide (a white pigment often mixed in bright colours such as green, blue and red), it abrades the needle. This does not happen when using carbon black ink. The team studied each needle before and after the tattoo process using scanning electron microscopy to note any abrasion it may have undergone.

"It is beyond doubt that metal particles derived from the tattoo needle as result of pure mechanical grinding," says Bernhard Hesse, of Xploraytion and visiting scientist at the ESRF. It is also known that titanium dioxide is very abrasive due to its high density and hardness compared to carbon black.

The size of the particles found in the lymph nodes after being translocated from the tattoos range from 50 nanometres to 2 micrometre. Nanoparticles are more dangerous than micro-sized particles due to their increased surface-to-volume ratio, which consequently leads to a potentially higher release of toxic elements. Nanoparticles can also directly enter cells and are more easily distributed throughout the body. On a positive note, however, they may also be more readily excreted from the body.
The study provides the first proof that not just tattoo pigment, but abraded needle particles are distributed via the lymph nodes. However, more research needs to be carried out to assess the impact of tattoo allergy formation and sensitivity.

"The fact that all pigments and wear particles are found in lymph nodes calls for special attention to be placed on allergy development. Unfortunately, today, we can't determine the exact impact on human health and possible allergy development derived from tattoo needle wear," explains Schreiver. "These are long-term effects which can only be assessed by long-term epidemiological studies monitoring the health of thousands of people over decades," she explains.

Allergic reactions to tattoos are amongst the most common side effects occurring with this permanent deposition of pigments into the dermal skin layer. The characterization of such pigments and their distribution has been investigated in recent decades. The health impact of tattoo equipment on the extensive number of people with inked skin has been the focus of neither research nor medical diagnostics. Although tattoo needles contain high amounts of sensitizing elements like nickel (Ni) and chromium (Cr), their influence on metal deposition in skin has never been investigated.

Here, we report the deposition of nano- and micrometer sized tattoo needle wear particles in human skin that translocate to lymph nodes. Usually tattoo needles contain nickel (6–8%) and chromium (15–20%) both of which prompt a high rate of sensitization in the general population. As verified in pig skin, wear significantly increased upon tattooing with the suspected abrasive titanium dioxide white when compared to carbon black pigment. Additionally, scanning electron microscopy of the tattoo needle revealed high wear after tattooing with ink containing titanium dioxide. The investigation of a skin biopsy obtained from a nickel sensitized patient with type IV allergy toward a tattoo showed both wear particles and iron pigments contaminated with nickel.

Previously, the virtually inevitable nickel contamination of iron pigments was suspected to be responsible for nickel-driven tattoo allergies. The evidence from our study clearly points to additional entry of nickel to both skin and lymph nodes originating from tattoo needle wear — with an as yet to be assessed impact on tattoo allergy formation and systemic sensitization.

Ines Schreiver, Bernhard Hesse, Christian Seim, Hiram Castillo-Michel, Lars Anklamm, Julie Villanova, Nadine Dreiack, Adrien Lagrange, Randolph Penning, Christa De Cuyper, Remi Tucoulou, Wolfgang Bäumler, Marine Cotte and Andreas Luch.

The authors thank Deborah Stier, Nils Dommershausen, and Eric Riemer for their technical help with the SEM, MALDI-MS and ICP-MS analyses, respectively. They also thank Dr. Rita Dubelloy for providing the skin specimen of the investigated tattoo allergy patient. Funding This work was supported by the intramural research project (SFP #1322–604) at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). The authors would like to thank the ESRF (The European Synchrotron) for allocated beamtimes on ID21 and ID16B for each of the experiments MD974 and MD1065.

This study was supported by grant funds from AMAG Pharmaceuticals (to R.M.).

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Sep 3 2019   Fetal Timeline   Maternal Timeline   News  

Tatoo needle debris processed through the lymph nodes,
often prompts highly sensitive responses.

Phospholid by Wikipedia