Scientists have created a tattoo patch that can be self-administered in minutes without causing any pain.
The tattoo patch, developed by experts in Georgia in the US, consists of tiny microneedles a few millimeters long that contain ink.
These needles dissolve when they pierce the skin, releasing the ink and applying the tattoo.
Tattoos are notoriously painful and take hours to administer as they have to repeatedly pierce the top layer of skin with a sharp needle coated in pigment.
But the microneedles can only be pressed into the skin once and then dissolve, leaving the ink in the skin after a few minutes without bleeding.
Scientists have created a tattoo patch that can be self-administered in minutes without causing any pain. Pictured, an enlarged view of a microneedle patch with green tattoo ink
Microneedles on the patch dissolve when they pierce the skin, releasing the ink and applying the tattoo
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The researchers start with a mold containing microneedles in a pattern that forms an image – such as a symbol, a number or a QR code.
They then fill the microneedles into the mold with tattoo ink and add a patch backing for easy handling.
The resulting patch is then applied to the skin for a few minutes, during which time the microneedles dissolve and release the tattoo ink.
The new tattoo patch is designed for medical tattoos, which can be used to cover scars, guide repeated cancer radiation treatments, repair nipples after breast surgery and much more.
Tattoos can also be used instead of bracelets as medical warnings to communicate serious medical conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy or allergies.
The tattoo technology was developed by a research team at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and detailed in a new study published in iScience
“We have miniaturized the needle so that it is painless, yet effectively deposits tattoo ink into the skin,” said lead author Professor Mark Prausnitz.
“This could be a way to not only make medical tattoos more accessible, but also open up new possibilities for cosmetic tattoos because of the ease of administration.”
Professor Prausnitz told MailOnline that the patch can also apply normal, recreational, artistic tattoos.
“We see its use for medical, veterinary and cosmetic, recreational, artistic purposes,” he said.
“Microneedle patches generally simplify access to tattoos by reducing the expertise, pain and cost required.”
Graphical summary of the technology and the different types of tattoos, including QR code, symbols and even ‘invisible’ tattoos that can only be viewed under UV light
The patch’s tiny microneedles, each smaller than a grain of sand, are made of tattoo ink in a soluble matrix.
Researchers describe each microneedle as a single pixel on a TV screen, because together they form a large image or symbol.
Examples of tattoo designs include numbers, letters, stars, hearts, or even QR codes that can potentially be scanned by a smartphone to open a web page.
In addition, the microneedles can incorporate tattoo inks in a variety of colors, including “invisible” blacklight ink tattoos that are only visible when exposed to ultraviolet light.
According to the team, this gives patients additional privacy, as they can choose to reveal their tattoo as and when they want.
The microneedles can accommodate tattoo inks in a variety of colors, including ‘invisible’ tattoos made from blacklight ink that are only visible when exposed to ultraviolet light
Pictured is a QR code tattoo pressed onto the skin through the microneedles. This QR code tattoo can be scanned by smartphone to open a particular web page
Professor Prausnitz told MailOnline that the ink is permanent, just like standard tattoos, but his team is investigating the use of temporary tattoo ink.
For medical use, the tattoo patches would be regulated by medical authorities, but non-medical tattoos could be sold in stores, possibly for self-administration.
“There can be standard designs (e.g. names, football teams, common symbols) or they can be custom designed to user specifications,” he said.
“The cost of mass production is not yet known, but will probably be made for less than a dollar for a small piece (say, a few square centimeters).”
The new tattoo patch is mainly designed for medical tattoos, which can be used to cover up scars, accompany repeated cancer radiation treatments or repair nipples after breast surgery. Study author Professor Mark Prausnitz has one of the patches
Microneedle patch tattoos can also be used to encode information in the skin of animals, as demonstrated by the team in their paper, which experimented with rats.
Instead of clipping the ear or putting an ear tag on animals to indicate sterilization status, a painless and discreet tattoo can be applied instead.
“The goal is not to replace all tattoos, which are often beauty works made by tattooists,” said Professor Prausnitz.
“Our goal is to create new opportunities for patients, pets and people who want a painless tattoo that is easy to apply.”
BRITISH MAN GETS TESCO CLUBCARD QR CODE TATTED ON HIS WRIST SO HE WOULD NEVER MISS A BARGAIN AGAIN
In July, video appeared of a man having the QR code of his Tesco Clubcard tattooed on his wrist, in a so-called example of ‘biohacking’.
Dean Mayhew paid £200 to have his wrist permanently inked with the code at a tattoo parlor in Chessington, south-west London.
Tired of missing out on bargains by forgetting his club card, the 30-year-old decided to make sure he always had it with him.
Video shows how the tattooed QR code cannot be scanned at a self-service checkout, but works with a hand scanner at the counter.
Mayhew has become one of the newest members of a growing global community known as the biohackers, who are deliberately making changes to the body with technology to make life easier.