Scientists show that DNA can be collected from the air

Scientists and researchers may not need to extract DNA from surfaces in the future. According to Scientific approach, researchers from Queen Mary University of London have shown that “environmental DNA” (eDNA) can be collected from the air.

The team used a peristaltic pump combined with pressure filters to sample naked mole rat DNA for five to 20 minutes, and then used standard kits to find and sequence genes in the resulting samples. This method not only identified the DNA of the mole rats (both in their housing and in the room in general), but captured some human DNA at the same time.

Lead author Dr. Elizabeth Claire said the work was originally intended to help conservationists and ecologists study biological environments. However, with enough development, it could be used for much more. Forensic units could extract DNA from the air to determine if a suspect had been present at a crime scene. It could also be useful in medicine: Virologists and epidemiologists could understand how airborne viruses (like the one behind COVID-19) spread.

Any practical use is a long way off. The research unit is already working with private companies such as NatureMetrics to develop practical applications. The limitations are easy to see – you want to use this in areas where you know what DNA to expect, so it may not work well in crowded rooms or outdoor spaces. However, simply having this option could be very useful in situations where surfaces do not provide clear answers.

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