By Tom Blackwell
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.
“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.
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.
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.
By Bj Johnson
The meaning behind the madness…
I have been making things my entire life. I was never a conscious choice, it simply flowed naturally and automatically from my skills, my interests and my passion. For me, creating is innate. I cannot not create.
I finally made a career of my art in 1997 when I began tattooing. Tattooing is creative and experiential, but I found I still needed to build tangible things as well, so I soon gravitated to investigating the mechanics of building tattoo machines. Creating custom tattoo machines from scratch was wildly fulfilling, and naturally I wanted to set my work apart from others. To do this, I turned to other forms of metal art. I took a couple jewelry making classes at GVSU and was introduced to the metalsmithing craft. I became addicted to this new medium immediately. However the constraints of tattoo machine mechanics would not allow for exploration of all these wonderful tricks and techniques the metalsmithing world offered, so I began making little sculptures. These small scale sculptures were simply physical forms based on ideas and emotions I had, but I never went in any specific direction with them. It was just playing.
I have also always loved symbolism. Wanting my work to have deeper meaning and layers, I began researching. All the paintings of the old masters are rife with symbolism. Each element in their paintings was there for a reason. I loved this and began to search for ways to include symbolism in my own work.
All of this became a explosion of purpose when I thought of making my monster sketches into three-dimensional pieces. Through my research I found that historically,
By Casey Keener
I had an opportunity to head out to Gardena California to check out the new Union Machine and Union Electric Tattoo shop recently to catch up with Big5 and Rupert and see for myself what all the buzz was about. I personally have always been fascinated with what goes into building machines, and Union Machine didn’t disappoint. With all the parts being made in house, I felt a little like I was getting a window into a couple of guys’ minds who truly live and breathe the art of tattooing and making machines, and all the while the Machine side has only “technically” being in business for just a year!
By Molly and Takahiro “Horitaka” Kitamura
This year’s convention went by so quickly, so I will try to break it down for you short and sweet… (more…)
By Molly and Takahiro “Horitaka” Kitamura
Josh David is one of the most good-hearted guys you’ll ever meet. And his tattoos ain’t too bad either, hee-hee! Having just moved to California from Ohio, he is building up a wide clientele by working at two remarkable shops, Garage Ink in Napa Valley and State of Grace in San Jose… (more…)