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Stick on vaccine tattoos to make painful pinpricks history

London: A stick on "tattoo" that delivers a powerful new type of vaccine, could finally mean the end of painful injections.

Researchers said that patches covered in "microneedles" may be a far safer, and less painful, way to deliver a new generation of vaccines.

They claim that the system could even be used to deliver DNA vaccines for "risky" disease such as HIV.

The new "tattoo" is made of creating a patch made of many layers of polymers embedded with the DNA vaccine, the Daily Mail reported.

These polymer films are implanted under the skin using microneedles that penetrate about half a millimeter into the skin - deep enough to deliver the DNA to immune cells in the epidermis, but not deep enough to cause pain in the nerve endings of the dermis.

Once under the skin, the films degrade as they come in contact with water, releasing the vaccine over days or weeks.

As the film breaks apart, the DNA strands become tangled up with pieces of the polymer, which protect the DNA and help it get inside cells.

Applying patches loaded with these needles onto the skin instantly embeds the coatings into the body, much like the application of a tattoo.

These microneedles can be designed to disrupt only the most superficial layers of the skin to avoid nerve endings and blood vessels, making them painless and safer than hypodermic needles.

This type of vaccine delivery would also eliminate the need to inject vaccines by syringe, Darrell Irvine, an MIT professor of biological engineering and materials science and engineering said.

"You just apply the patch for a few minutes, take it off and it leaves behind these thin polymer films embedded in the skin," he said.

The microneedles are set to be used to deliver a new generation of "DNA vaccines," the researchers said.

Current vaccines help bodies develop immunity to diseases by exposing immune systems to potential invaders.