Austin Buckner – Tattoo Research | Westfield State University

Austin Buckner – Tattoo Research | Westfield State University


My name is Austin Buckner I’m a senior here at Westfield State with a biology major and a chemistry minor I wanted to do an SHP, which is a Senior Honors Project, and I needed a topic. It came about from my father, my sister actually has 6 or 7 tattoos, so he kind of just was talking about how she just got a recent one and was like “oh is there any way you could do this?” So the research project is based around tattoo ink. We are looking at three different tattoo inks, two of them are organic. When Austin first approached me with this project, I thought it was very interesting but as an immunologist who’s been working on HIV for the last 15 years, I didn’t quite know how it was going to fit in with my own research program. There’s very little known about how tattoo ink impacts the immune system and the body in general. We came up with a cell-based system that we could use in the laboratory and we used immune cells called macrophages. And macrophages are responsible for not only fighting infection, but also for clearing damaged tissue and the wound healing process that would occur after tattoing. We’re using these cells and we’re looking at how the tattoo ink impacts their function. With the SSuRF grant and CURCA allowing us to actually get money and then we also have the ability to do it over the summer I get to see something that I’m like growing like the cells, how they’re surviving, how they thrive, and just kind of like taking care of almost something that’s bigger than yourself a little bit. Some of the results that we actually found from this tattoo ink project was that the tattoo ink is actually able to get into the immune cells. And through that, it’s actually able to not interfere with the immune cells’ ability to go towards the wounds. However, in that traveling period, the wound healing is hindered. We think that the cell death that’s present may be caused by the actual just tattoo ink changing the environment which may in fact slow down the wound healing of the dermal wounds. But we also found that this is also color dependent and type dependent between the organic inks and the normal inks and then also between the black and the red.

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