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How Tattoo Machines Could be Key to Treating Disfiguring Facial Sores and Even Curing Skin Cancer

By Tom Blackwell 

http://www.news.nationalpost.com

Key West Lifts Ban On Tattoo Parlors

A tattoo machine can target Leishmania cells just below the surface of the sore, depositing the drug — instead of ink — into the bottom of the little holes it creates, far less painfully than a hypodermic needle.

Mention tattooing and health in the same sentence, and chances are the topic is one of the nasty infectious diseases — from HIV to Hep C — that can be transmitted by dirty needles.

A new Canadian study, though, may be about to change that image, suggesting that tattooing equipment could actually be an effective new way to combat an array of skin conditions, penetrating deep enough to deliver drugs to the right cells, but not so far that the needle prods sensitive nerves.

“It’s logical that it works…. But we were amazed”

The just-published research found evidence that tattooing could greatly improve treatment for cutaneous leishmaniasis, a parasite that leaves millions of people worldwide with disfiguring, and often emotionally devastating, facial sores. It affects mainly developing countries, but even Canadian soldiers returning from Afghanistan have contracted the illness.

The technology, though, could eventually have application in treating skin cancer, psoriasis and other ailments, speculates the scientist behind the project.

Sand-Fly Skin Disease Besets Afghanistan

An Afghan receives treatment for a tropical skin disease. The Afghan capital, Kabul, has one of the highest concentrations of the disfiguring skin disease, Cutaneous leishmaniasis, which is a parasitic disease transmitted by the phlebotomine sand fly. Majid Saeedi/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 104492714

“We were extremely excited, very surprised [at the success of the experiment],” said Anny Fortin, a biochemist who did the work at McGill University. “If you think about it, it’s logical that it works.… But we were amazed.”

She cautioned that the initial study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, was conducted on mice, so there is no guarantee the results will translate into humans. The next step is further drug-tattooing work on pigs, whose skin is closer to that of people, and then to try the technique on humans if the animal research is successful.

Key West Lifts Ban On Tattoo Parlors

A tattoo artist works on a tattoo.

Ms. Fortin said she came up with the idea after talking to a colleague who works for a company that makes tattooing equipment for applying permanent makeup. She obtained funding to explore the novel idea from Grand Challenges Canada — a federally funded agency that finances research on affordable innovations to attack health threats in poor countries.

Leishmaniasis, it turns out, is ripe for some kind of new approach. Caused by a parasite that sand flies transmit, the most dangerous form attacks internal organs and can be fatal.

The more common cutaneous version will not kill, but leaves patients with stigma-inducing ulcers on their faces, sometimes making it difficult for them to find a spouse or otherwise affecting their lives deeply. An estimated 1.5 million new cases are recorded yearly.

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None of the current treatment options are ideal. One drug can be administered systemically, but the intramuscular injections — one a day for a month — are toxic and painful. Hypodermics are also used to deliver the same drug directly into the lesion, also extremely painful.

“I’ve seen children being treated, six people were needed to immobilize the child and this little kid was screaming like crazy,” said Ms. Fortin.

The tattooing machine targets Leishmania cells just below the surface of the sore, depositing the drug — instead of ink — into the bottom of the little holes it creates, far less painfully than a hypodermic needle. Ironically, it acts in much the same way as the fly injects the parasite when it bites someone, said Ms. Fortin.

Her study compared treatment of ulcers in mice using the tattooing gear, versus the intramuscular injections, and a topical ointment applied on the ulcer. The tattoo method was the most effective in all cases, clearing up the lesions completely, the study reported.

It is possible the heat generated by the tattooing also helps, triggering inflammation that brings immune cells to attack the pathogen, said Prof. Uzonna.

Ms. Fortin said she is now trying to obtain another round of Grand Challenges funding, which would require her to find matching grants from other sources.


Assistance Through Creative Block

melissa-fusco-0By Melissa Fusco
At one time or another in every artist’s life, including myself, we have all experienced some type of artist block. There are many levels of creative block, from just the annoyance of interrupted flow that is short-lived or even deeper resulting in depression, lack of self-worth, loss of self-esteem and unfortunately self-destruction. An artist block or otherwise known as “creative block” is the inability to access one’s flowing stream of inspiration and creativity. What was once an overflowing well of ideas may now feel like an endless drought. It can last for days, weeks, months or even years. A feeling of loss in self may arise, and with every forward gaze stands fear, fear of not creating a worthy piece because of all the emotional strain that has occurred…  (more…)


Melissa Fusco: Actively Sitting Takes Its Toll

melissa-fusco-0By Melissa Fusco
The single best tool that artists have to work with is their own hands. Often I hear clients tell me that my hands must hurt from tattooing hours-on-end. In my experience my hands are the last to feel fatigue and if so, the first to recuperate. The hands are an amazing and complex tool that can withstand hours of repetitive work, their strength, stamina, flexibility and movement is incomparable and cannot be replicated… (more…)


Brandon Collins: Health and Wellness Tips For Tattooers

brandon-collins-7By Brandon Collins
It’s fairly common knowledge that being a tattooer isn’t the healthiest of professions. For some of us, our days consist of smoking cigs, drinking, eating and sitting (and sadly more of the latter). Working 10-12 hour days with little to no breaks can do a number on, not only your physique, but your overall health and wellness. Luckily, with some dedication and a few sacrifices… it doesn’t have to be… (more…)


Health Issues With Tattooing (Mike Rubendall)

By Petri Aspvik
Petri Aspvik: What type of physical problem have you encountered due to tattooing?

Mike Rubendall: Before I was physically active and aware of what being in good health was, I had major back and neck pain. It seems to be a common problem amongst tattooers due to poor posture and long hours of tattooing throughout the years.

Have you had to see a doctor, chiropractor, masseuse therapist, acupuncturist or anything similar because of problems or because you want to avoid them?

I would regularly see a massage and physical therapist. They have been helpful for me for the most part. However, I feel maintaining a healthy diet and exercise is a more effective method to avoid any type of chronic pain caused by tattooing…  (more…)


Health Issues With Tattooing (Nick Baxter)

By Petri Aspvik

Petri Aspvik:  What type of physical problems have you encountered due to tattooing?

Nick Baxter: Obviously tattooing can put strain on your fingers, hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, shoulders, neck, spine and lower back. In broader terms, all of these body parts are connected, like a series of stops on a train. The physical action of sitting and extending your arms, making small, repetitive hand motions over long periods of time puts stress on the body that just goes down the continuous line of interconnected body parts. I deal with pain, strain, and discomfort in all of these areas on a regular basis…  (more…)


Health Issues With Tattooing (Jesse Smith)

By Petri Aspvik

Petri Aspvik:  What type of physical problems have you encountered due to tattooing?

Jesse Smith: I’ve definitely had a few issues with carpal tunnel here and there. As well as a few nerve issues in my shoulders and arms. I’ve also noticed that my hearing has suffered because of the constant buzzing over the years…  (more…)


Health Issues With Tattooing (Kari Barba)

By Petri Aspvik

Petri Aspvik:  What type of physical problem have you encountered due to tattooing?

Kari Barba: I have encountered back, neck and hand pain for sure. I think we all get that.

Have you had to see a doctor, chiropractor, masseuse therapist, acupuncturist or anything similar because problems or because you want to avoid them?  (more…)


Health Issues With Tattooing (Mike Giant)

By Petri Aspvik

Petri Aspvik: Did you encounter any type of physical problems when you were tattooing?

Mike Giant: Yes, my neck, back, shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers would always hurt after a long day of tattooing. It took its toll over the years. These days I can only tattoo once or twice a week because of the pain…  (more…)


Health Issues With Tattooing (Seth Ciferri)

By Petri Aspvik

Petri Aspvik: What type of physical problems have you encountered do to tattooing?

Seth Ciferri: A lot of it is from sitting all hunched over for so long… I developed this weird muscle mass in my mid back. It was there because I had such poor posture while working, due to a lack of core strength. It’s taken years of weight training, massage therapy, and chiropractic work to get it straightened out. Core strength is KEY in maintaining good posture while working. It will help ensure a long and comfortable career…  (more…)


Health Issues With Tattooing (Marcus Kuhn)

By Petri Aspvik

Petri Aspvik: What type of physical problem have you encountered do to tattooing?

Marcus Kuhn: After 20 years I have pain in my number 11 acupuncture point just southeast of my right scapula as a result of the long swoop of lining and the repetitive pulse of the mag work. After four hours my shoulder becomes congested and starts to fill with fluid. like a nose when you are congested with the flu. The body is responding to the inflammation of the tissue by sending fluid to the area. At night my shoulder sometimes pulses with pain… The fluid takes three hours or more to drain. I have also lost a register of my hearing from the frequency of the ultrasonics and the running machines…  (more…)


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