Scientists have shown for the first time that human DNA can be collected from air samples. Although the work is still in its early days, the concept of evidence could lead to exciting improvements in forensics, ecology and even treatment. The technology uses scraps of misleading genetic material, known as environmental DNA (EDNA) that has flowed into the environment from any organism, especially skin and hair, but also urine and other wastes.
Scientists have previously developed a reliable way to collect EDNA from the aquatic environment and use it to identify species found in those waters. It is also possible to use EDNA from soil and snow. However, collecting EDNA from air samples proved to be a difficult task. Scientists at Queen Mary University in London have shown how animal DNA can be collected from air samples in a new study published in detail in the journal Pierre.
The researchers extracted air samples from twelve of the naked sesame-rats, as well as the room in which they trapped, and then used existing techniques to test DNA sequences in the sample air. Lower and see, they detected the presence of naked sesame rats in the elderly but they also detected the EDNA of the surrounding species. In addition, they were able to detect the presence of human DNA in both the home and the elderly. They initially speculated that this might be due to pollution but it became clear that the genetic material had moved away from its original source and spread into the environment.
The strategy still needs further refinement. Although it is obviously possible to collect “airDNA” from a confined cell, it can be difficult in an open environment where there is a huge reduction. Nevertheless, looking at the recent successes of collecting EDNA from water samples, the researchers believe that there are some promising potential applications of this work in the future. For example, in theory, researchers could go into a poke cave-like hard-to-access animal environment and identify living species using only air samples.
Dr Elizabeth Clare, first study author and Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, said in a statement, “The use of EDNA has become a growing interest in the scientific community, especially for ecologists or conservationists looking for efficient and non-invasive ways to monitor biological environments. Here we provide the first published evidence to show that animal EDNA can be collected Reaching opens up more opportunities strictly investigate the animal community, “he said.
The idea of scooping EDNA from the air can have some profound effects on the human world, from criminal forensics to the detection of infectious diseases. “This strategy can help us better understand the transmission of airborne diseases such as Covid-19. Social distance directions now based on physics and estimates of how far virus particles can move, but with this technique, we can actually create air samples and gather real-world evidence to support such guidelines, “explains Dr. Clare has done.
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