Tattoo You

I’m gonna look so tough with my Hello Kitty tattoo!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

We all know tattoos are permanent. But science says our body recycles most of our cells every seven years. Old beat up cells are replaced with sprightly new cells! How does the ink outlive this cell cycle?

Scientists at Marseille University Center for Immunology think they’ve found the answer.

They found that REGULAR skin cells are not inked. Instead, immune cells, known as macrophages, think the ink is a foreign invader. When injections are made for a tattoo, a red flag is raised to alert these cells. Macrophages arrive on the scene. They then gobble up the ink, taking it prisoner. And instead of discarding it, the macrophage locks it up for life!

What happens when the macrophage dies? The ink is released. And soon a new macrophage comes along and takes a bite. But the shape of the tattoo stays the same!
Armed with this knowledge, new tattoo removal methods could target these hungry cells.

Regardless, remember that the safest tattoo is always. . . “Mom.”