Assessment of cytotoxicity and sensitization potential of intradermally injected tattoo inks in reconstructed human skin

Joey Karregat, Thomas Rustemeyer, Sebastiaan van der Bent, Sander Spiekstra, Maria Thon, David Fernandez Rivas, Susan Gibbs*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: The number of people within the European population having at least 1 tattoo has increased notably, and with it the number of tattoo-associated clinical complications. Despite this, safety information and testing regarding tattoo inks remains limited. Objective: To assess cytotoxicity and sensitization potential of 16 tattoo inks after intradermal injection into reconstructed human skin (RHS). Methods: Commercially available tattoo inks were injected intradermally into RHS (reconstructed epidermis on a fibroblast-populated collagen hydrogel) using a permanent make-up device. RHS biopsies, tissue sections and culture medium were assessed for cytotoxicity (MTT assay), detrimental histological changes (H&E) and for the presence of inflammatory and sensitization cytokines (IL-1α, IL- 8, IL-18; ELISA), respectively. Results: Varying degrees of reduced metabolic activity and histopathological cytotoxic effects were observed in RHS after ink injection. Five inks showed significantly reduced metabolic activity and enhanced sensitization potential compared to negative controls. Discussion: Using the RHS model system, four tattoo inks were identified as highly cytotoxic and classified as potential sensitizers, suggesting that allergic contact dermatitis could emerge in individuals carrying these inks. These results indicate that RHS-based assessment of cytotoxicity and sensitization potential by intradermal tattoo ink injection is a useful analytical tool to determine inkinduced deleterious effects.
Original languageEnglish
JournalContact Dermatitis
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 24 May 2021

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