Black and white image showing a person being tattooed

'Temporary tattoos' and MS - what's the evidence?

Temporary tattoos have hit the headlines as research reveals a quirky new way to target the immune system. But what did the study show?

Nifty nanoparticles

Researchers at Baylor College in Texas have discovered that carbon nanoparticles can have positive effects on the immune system. These tiny particles seem to target a certain type of immune cell, called a T cell, which is known to cause damage to myelin in MS.

The particles prevented these cells from becoming active and helped to reduce inflammation in rats.

What has this got to do with tattoos?

The team found that injecting the particles under the skin was the best way to deliver the treatment, as it allowed them to stay in the rat’s system for longer. The treatment temporarily marked the skin, and this is what sparked the link to temporary tattoos.

How does this work in MS?

As this treatment is relatively new, most of the study focused on understanding how the particles affected the immune system in rats, and identifying which cells were targeted.

In a small experiment, the particles were found to reduce the severity of a condition similar to MS in rats. This is an encouraging first step, but much more research is needed to understand if this could be an effective treatment for MS.

Preventing the immune system from attacking myelin is a key strategy for treating MS. Right now we have 12 disease modifying therapies licensed for relapsing forms of MS, all of which work by making the immune system less likely to cause damage in MS.