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COLUMBIA - Tattoos can be a hassle to get rid of, but a new laser removal technology is making the process safer and more effective, doctors say.

A team of MU researchers have come up with an alternative to current laser technology. It's called sonoillumination and uses ultrasonic pulsation and laser light to alter the properties of skin tissues during dermatology procedures.

“We can use it to take advantage of what the ultrasound is able to do and then allow easier access to the light, making treatments more effective and possibly less expensive and definitely safer,” said Nicholas Golda, an associate professor of dermatology, who created the technology along with student Paul J.D. Whiteside and advisor Heather Hunt.

The current laser technology comes with risks, including eye damage for the dermatologist and the patient. 

“What they do is they wear these optically dense goggles,” Whiteside said. “The problem is they also block out the target. So if you’re looking at a colored tattoo, you’re not going to be able to see it with the same sort of clarity that you would with your open eyes.”

The sonoillumination technique will ultimately allow doctors to do surgery without the use of glasses, the researchers said.

The team is developing a start-up company to commercialize the technique, according to a press release.

“I think the future is we’re prototyping it into a hand piece and then hopefully we’ll be able to hand it off to a company that does laser dermatology and have them take it to market and really change the way dermatology surgery procedures are done,” Hunt said.

The laser can be used for tattoo removal, hair removal or any other dermatology removals.