Tattoo Pigments Are Observed in the Kupffer Cells of the Liver Indicating Blood-Borne Distribution of Tattoo Ink

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  • Mitra Sepehri
  • Tobias Steen Sejersen
  • Qvortrup, Klaus
  • Catharina M Lerche
  • Jørgen Serup

AIM: Tattoo pigments are deposited in the skin and known to distribute to regional lymph nodes. Tattoo pigments are small particles and may be hypothesized to reach the blood stream and become distributed to peripheral organs. This has not been studied in the past. The aim of the study was to trace tattoo pigments in internal organs in mice extensively tattooed with 2 different tattoo ink products.

MATERIAL/METHODS: Three groups of mice were studied, i.e., 10 tattooed black, 10 tattooed red, and 5 untreated controls. They were tattooed on the entire back with commercial tattoo inks, black and red. Mice were sacrificed after 1 year. Samples were isolated from tattooed skin, lymph nodes, liver, spleen, kidney, and lung. Samples were examined for deposits of tattoo pigments by light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

RESULTS: TEM identified intracellular tattoo pigments in the skin and in lymph nodes. TEM in both groups of tattooed mice showed tattoo pigment deposits in the Kupffer cells in the liver, which is a new observation. TEM detected no pigment in other internal organs. Light microscopy showed dense pigment in the skin and in lymph nodes but not in internal organs.

CONCLUSION: The study demonstrated black and red tattoo pigment deposits in the liver; thus, tattoo pigment distributed from the tattooed skin via the blood stream to this important organ of detoxification. The finding adds a new dimension to tattoo pigment distribution in the body, i.e., as observed via the blood in addition to the lymphatic pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)86-93
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Research areas

  • Journal Article

ID: 178790695