Health Team

Duke researchers developing safer, cheaper laser treatments for tattoo removal

Posted April 7, 2021 6:00 a.m. EDT
Updated April 7, 2021 6:42 a.m. EDT

— The future of lasers may provide more effective treatment for brain tumors, dermatological concerns and other technology problems in clinical environments.

"We look at those challenges, and we create solutions around that using our engineering expertise," said Duke neurosurgeon Dr. Patrick Codd.

At Duke’s Brain Tool Lab, neurosurgeons collaborate with engineers at the Pratt School of Engineering. They are developing the next generation of robotic laser technology.

Codd says the core of their work is improving precision in removing brain tumors while sparing healthy tissue. As the research unfolds, the team imagines other possible uses for their lasers.

"One of them is actually removing tattoos or other dermatological conditions," said Codd.

"I don’t personally have any regrettable tattoos, but I know people who do," said Dr. Wes Ross, a post doctoral researcher and project leader for development of robotic lasers.

He says tattoos could help provide a "proof of concept" by targeting ink molecules beneath the first few layers of skin. "Now you can come in there with a very small laser and just trace the outline of the tattoo perfectly," said Ross.

He said their software and system gives them the ability to perform procedures more quickly and provide a more comfortable tattoo removal experience for the patient.

"It does heat up the skin but not to the point that it burns," explained Ross. He says the body just absorbs the zapped ink and flushes it out with minimal to no pain or scarring.

The goal is to make laser treatments safer and more efficient, better than current methods of tattoo removal. "It might actually reduce the price and make it more accessible to people who need it," added Codd.

The team says the concept is still a few years from use in brain surgery or other potential uses.

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