Laser-based tattoo removal is typically a long process, often requiring 10 or more treatment sessions spread several weeks apart from one another. A new acoustic system, however, could reportedly allow for complete tattoo removal in as little as two to three closely-spaced sessions.

Conventional systems utilize a laser beam to break up clusters of tattoo ink particles located beneath the skin. The individual particles that are broken off of these agglomerations are gradually carried away by the body's white blood cells.

Multiple treatments are required, as each pass of the laser removes only a top layer of particles from each agglomeration. It's impossible to remove any more than that in one session, as the particles that are released from the top of each cluster end up shielding the rest of the agglomeration from the laser beam.

Additionally, the laser is blocked by tiny steam-filled vacuoles (sacs) which form over the agglomerations as a result of the treatment. A subsequent pass can't be performed until these have been reabsorbed, and the released ink particles have been carried away.

It was with these limitations in mind that Texas tech firm Soliton developed its Rapid Acoustic Pulse (RAP) system. Immediately after an initial laser pass is performed, the handheld RAP device is used to send acoustic pulses through the skin. This both removes the vacuoles, and causes the ink particles to disperse.

As a result, another laser pass can be performed within a matter of minutes, with up to four passes being performed in one session. In a human clinical trial of 32 black-ink tattoos, individual RAP sessions were shown to produce an average of 49 percent pigment fading, as compared to 16 percent using a laser alone. According to the company, this means that a tattoo could be completely removed within two to three sessions, saving both time and money.

The system's ability to remove multi-color tattoos is still being explored in animal trials. It also shows promise for use in the removal of cellulite.

Soliton is now seeking investors to help commercialize the RAP system, via the FlashFunders equity crowdfunding platform.

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