In the future, researchers will no longer need to collect DNA from surfaces. Thanks to scientists at Queen Mary University of London who have shown that it is possible to collect “environmental DNA” (eDNA) from the air.
The team used a peristaltic pump combined with pressure filters to collect DNA samples within 5-20 minutes. This is how they were able to verify that the macromolecule is large enough to leave the host organism under certain conditions and, together with particles of skin, droplets of saliva and other small fractions, be carried through the air.
The lead author of the paper, Elizabeth Clare, noted that their study was intended to help conservationists and ecologists study the biological environment. However, with further development, the method could be used in other areas as well.
Forensic scientists would be able to collect DNA directly from the air to determine if a suspect was present at a crime scene. It could also be useful in medicine – virologists and epidemiologists could understand how airborne viruses are spread.
The research department is already working with private companies such as NatureMetrics to develop other practical applications. However, scientists caution that the method may not work well in crowded rooms or outdoors.