Look into the fate and effects of tattoo pigments in human skin

στις

Synchrotron-based ν-XRF mapping and μ-FTIR microscopy enable to look into the fate and effects of tattoo pigments in human skin

Ines Schreiver, Bernhard Hesse, Christian Seim, Hiram Castillo-Michel, Julie Villanova, Peter Laux, Nadine Dreiack, Randolf Penning, Remi Tucoulou, Marine Cotte & Andreas Luch

Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 11395(2017) / doi:10.1038/s41598-017-11721-z

Abstract

The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body. We used skin and lymphatic tissues from human corpses to address local biokinetics by means of synchrotron X-ray fluorescence (XRF) techniques at both the micro (μ) and nano (ν) scale. Additional advanced mass spectrometry-based methodology enabled to demonstrate simultaneous transport of organic pigments, heavy metals and titanium dioxide from skin to regional lymph nodes. Among these compounds, organic pigments displayed the broadest size range with smallest species preferentially reaching the lymph nodes. Using synchrotron μ-FTIR analysis we were also able to detect ultrastructural changes of the tissue adjacent to tattoo particles through altered amide I α-helix to β-sheet protein ratios and elevated lipid contents. Altogether we report strong evidence for both migration and long-term deposition of toxic elements and tattoo pigments as well as for conformational alterations of biomolecules that likely contribute to cutaneous inflammation and other adversities upon tattooing.

41598_2017_11721_Fig2_HTML
Organic pigments translocate from skin to lymph nodes. Organic pigments in lysed skin and lymph nodes were identified by means of LDI-ToF-MS. Adjacent skin and lymph tissue specimens (about 5–10 mm) are displayed in cryo-matrix after preparing thin sections for μ-FTIR and μ-XRF analyses. Skin specimens are oriented with its surface on the right side. Identified organic pigments are indicated below each sample. Chemical structures of the organic pigments identified in the samples are displayed on the right.

article (open access)

cover image

Translocation of tattoo particles from skin to lymph nodes. Upon injection of tattoo inks, particles can be either passively transported via blood and lymph fluids or phagocytized by immune cells and subsequently deposited in regional lymph nodes. After healing, particles are present in the dermis and in the sinusoids of the draining lymph nodes. The picture was drawn by the authors (i.e., C.S.).

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