Henry Ford Health and Ephemeral Tattoo Partner to Study Made-to-Fade Tattoo Ink for Medical Markings

May 17, 2023
Henry Ford Health and Ephemeral Tattoo logos

DETROIT (May 17, 2023) – Researchers at Henry Ford Health — one of the nation’s leading integrated academic medical institutions — in collaboration with Ephemeral Tattoo, have conducted a study on the safety and efficacy of made-to-fade tattoos for medical markings. 

Fifty to 60 percent of cancer patients receive radiation therapy during their course of treatment. Patients have traditionally been required to receive small, permanent tattoos on their skin to ensure therapy is delivered accurately to the same place each time while minimizing healthy tissue exposure to radiation. On the heels of this study, Ephemeral will offer its innovative made-to-fade tattoo ink — which meets all required medical standards — as a replacement for the small, permanent tattoos patients receive on their skin to help position them for radiation treatment. 

As part of the study, 15 patients who were scheduled to undergo radiation therapy were given a total of 44 tattoos using Ephemeral’s made-to-fade ink, which is specifically formulated to last throughout the four-to-eight-week course of treatment, but disappear after. Ephemeral Tattoo ink is applied like a traditional tattoo – by a needle into the dermis — but due to the degradation of the bioabsorbable polymers, the ink breaks down over time into small enough sizes for the body’s immune system to remove it. The study was created by Henry Ford Health radiation oncology resident Eric Schaff, M.D., with the help of principal investigator Farzan Siddiqui, M.D., Ph.D., and research engineer Marissa Gilbert.
“The initial safety data we’ve seen from this study is promising,” said Dr. Schaff. “Study participants were questioned weekly as to whether they experienced any adverse effects at the site of the tattoo, such as pain, itchiness, rashes or other issues. To date, there have been no adverse effects reported by participants.”
The biodegradable ink used in the study was developed by Ph.D. chemical engineers, Vandan Shah and Brennal Pierre at Ephemeral Tattoo. Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, board certified dermatologist and Michigan State University alum, was instrumental in advising Ephemeral and lending his resources on making ink improvements. According to Brennal Pierre, co-founder and chief technology officer of Ephemeral Tattoo, the ink is made up of FDA-approved ingredients, similar to dissolvable stitches. 
“Ephemeral Tattoo's ink is made from medical-grade polymers, which are chains of smaller molecules and natural and synthetic color additives routinely used in food, medical devices, drugs and cosmetics,” said Pierre, who is also a chemical and biomolecular engineer. “The polymers in Ephemeral Tattoo ink are biodegradable and bioabsorbable, so after they enter the body, they will gradually break apart until the particles are small enough for the body to remove.”

Made-to-fade tattoos for radiation therapy could potentially provide a range of benefits for patients, Dr. Schaff explained.
“One of the potential benefits is providing an alternative to permanent tattoos for individuals with religious, cultural or other considerations that prohibit them from receiving a permanent tattoo,” said Dr. Schaff. “For some patients, permanent tattoos also serve as a daily reminder of prior radiation therapy, which may have a negative psychological impact on their quality of life. We believe semi-permanent tattoos could offer patients an alternative to permanent tattoos, which has long been the standard of care for radiation therapy alignment.”
Over the years, there have been attempts in the medical community to use non-permanent tattoo options, such as henna, for radiation therapy alignment. Because henna and other temporary tattoos start to fade quickly and do not last the six to eight weeks required for longer radiation courses, the tattoos must be reapplied over the course of treatment, which can introduce inaccuracies and prolong treatment time.
To learn more about this study, visit clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT05248009.
Jeff Adkins / mediarelations@hfhs.org

Melody Serafino / press@ephemeral.tattoo
For inquiries about the ink, reach out to radiotherapy@ephemeral.tattoo


About Henry Ford Health
Serving communities across Michigan and beyond, Henry Ford Health is committed to partnering with patients and members along their entire health journey. Henry Ford Health provides a full continuum of services – from primary and preventative care, to complex and specialty care, health insurance, a full suite of home health offerings, virtual care, pharmacy, eye care and other healthcare retail.
It is one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, recognized for clinical excellence in cancer care, cardiology and cardiovascular surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics and sports medicine, and multi-organ transplants. Consistently ranked among the top five NIH-funded institutions in Michigan, Henry Ford Health engages in more than 2,000 research projects annually. Equally committed to educating the next generation of health professionals, Henry Ford Health trains more than 4,000 medical students, residents and fellows every year across 50+ accredited programs.
With more than 33,000 valued team members, Henry Ford Health is also among Michigan’s largest and most diverse employers, including nearly 6,000 physicians and researchers from the Henry Ford Medical Group, Henry Ford Physician Network and Jackson Health Network.
The health system is led by President and CEO Robert G. Riney and serves a growing number of customers across 250+ locations throughout Michigan including five acute care hospitals, two destination facilities for complex cancer and orthopedics and sports medicine care, three behavioral health facilities, primary care and urgent care centers.

About Ephemeral Tattoo
Ephemeral Tattoo is the first and only tattoo ink that lasts at least a year. Applied by real tattoo artists  in the same way as traditional tattoos, Ephemeral Tattoo ink is formulated to have a shorter lifespan – giving individuals the freedom to get tattoos without a lifetime commitment.

Backed by a team of chemical engineer PhDs, Ephemeral bridges the gap between conventional ink and temporary tattoos — making the artistry that comes with permanent tattoos more accessible. Ephemeral Tattoo has brick-and-mortar tattoo studios in Atlanta, Brooklyn, DC, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Chicago. 


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