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Tattooing May Help Make Better Vaccines
Can tattooing help vaccines be more useful? According to findings published by a team of German doctors, putting the vaccine into the skin may produce a faster and stronger response from the human body than the current method that uses intramuscular injections. Although years away from any practical application, the test results gave a lot of promising data.
Most contemporary vaccines are made from weakened or killed forms of the disease which they are meant to combat. Introducing them into the body causes the production of antibodies and it's these special cells that ward off or prevent infection by the original disease. Some vaccines are administered orally (by mouth) but a lot of them are given by what most people think of as an injection, whereby a doctor or nurse uses a hypodermic needle to inject the vaccine into muscular tissue, most often the upper arm, thigh or buttocks.
What the researchers in Heidelberg, Germany were comparing was the response of the body to an intramuscular injection versus the response when a dermal injection was used, which mimicked the same process as tattooing just minus the colored ink. In tattooing, a solid needle is used (not a hollow one) and the material isn't injected so much as pushed or allowed to run into holes made in the skin which only go as far as the dermis, the middle layer of the skin tissue. When the researchers tried this method in their animal trials, they saw a strong and faster immune system response, meaning antibodies were created more quickly and more of them were made by the body. They even compared their results to vaccine injections that used added special medicines designed to created a stronger response from the body and the tattooing method still showed a stronger humoral (antibody) response.
The doctors then tried to figure out why this happened. So far they hypothesize that the injection form has a lot to do with the successful response. Tattooing takes place over a larger area than a conventional injection, being hundreds of small punctures versus just one larger one. This techniques causes a low-grade inflammation all over the tattooed area, which the body responds to by sending lots of blood vessels to the area. The larger area of skin trauma exposes more body cells to the vaccine material faster, and creates a stronger interaction between the body and the site of the wound.
To learn more about tattooing and medical tattoos, you might like Tattoos - A Medical Dictionary, Bibliography, and Annotated Research Guide to Internet References by Health Publica Icon Health Publications or The Body Art Book: A Complete, Illustrated Guide to Tattoos, Piercings, and Other Body Modification
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