Science

DNA can be collected from air, scientists show for the first time

For the first time ever, scientists have collected environmental DNA (eDNA) from the air. The practice, still at its primary stage, could revolutionize forensics, anthropology, and even medicine. The scientists first took air samples from a room that had housed naked mole rats and showed that air DNA sampling could successfully detect mole-rat DNA within the animal’s housing. The scientists also spotted human DNA in the air sample.

Though what is DNA? DNA is a type of nucleic acid, which has to do with the storage and expression of genetic information. Deoxyribonucleic Acid encodes the information that a cell needs to make proteins. In short, it’s just the script that shows the characteristics of the organism. It also helps to transfer the traits of parents to their children, during the fusion of their respective gametes.

Scientists initially ventured a guess that this might be due to contamination. However, with further research, they concluded that the human genetic material was moving away from its source and spreading throughout the air. “The use of eDNA has become a topic of increasing interest within the scientific community particularly 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 from the air, opening up further opportunities for investigating animal communities in hard to reach environments such as caves and burrows,” Dr. Elizabeth Clare, Senior Lecturer at the Queen Mary University of London and first author of the study, said.

The researchers are now working with partners in the industry to bring some of the potential applications of this technology to life. We can get to know about the criminal, who may have left some of his/her ‘eDNA’ samples on the site of the crime. Clare further explained that the technique could help researchers to better understand the transmission of airborne diseases such as COVID-19. We can get accurate estimates of how far could the virus particle can move from the host and can collect real-world evidence to support guidelines of this pandemic. 

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ARTICLE: PATEL CHAITANYA

SCIENCE/HEALTH EDITOR: KYLE SMITH

PHOTO CREDITS: THE NORTHERN FARMER

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