05 December 2011

Photonics erase a hindering past

Light is now enabling equal opportunity employment.

In Orange County, California, Judge David Carter has been supporting a program to remove tattoos in order to help convicted offenders to successfully re-enter community and get started on a positive path. The breakthrough will allow them to advance without telltale evidence of a hindering past.

The program, run by Stuart Nelson, Medical Director at the Beckman Laser Institute, University of California-Irvine, has already received kudos from the U.S. Probation Service in Orange County. The process employs laser light to fragment the ink particles so that they are carried away through the body’s immune system.

“This is particularly important to these clients because as they’re trying to re-enter society, acquire a job, establish a new identity and a new career, the stigma associated with having a tattoo can often inhibit that,” Nelson said.

Nelson said they’re fortunate in that most of their clients come with the popular dark blue and black inks that are easily removed by lasers. Removal can be problematic when facing chemical components called organometallic dyes, used to make colored inks.

Nelson has worked with about two dozen probationers so far, removing tattoos located on hands, lower arms and necks.

Nelson’s research focuses on laser and other biomedical optics techniques with applications such as port wine stain removal, noninvasive monitoring of blood with external probes for use by people with diabetes or for monitoring blood sugar in surgery to monitor anesthetics, cancer diagnostics and treatment, and many other life-saving, life-enhancing light-based technologies. See more in this SPIE Newsroom video interview:


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