DNA from mammals was discovered in the air, just like in
water. This invisible environmental DNA can be found useful in many ways,
especially in fields like forensic science, public health, and ecological
settings. Researchers in the UK are who discovered this. A scientist, Elizabeth
Clare has been studying the genetic footprint left by organisms in the water.
This is to help get a better understanding of the organisms that are frequenting
certain areas. This has also proven very useful in monitoring endangered
species, like the white shark. This is proven to be more effective than the traditional
In water settings, scientists have also been introducing new
eDNA into territories, to study how the organisms in the area react. This has
also been done on terrestrial organisms as well, but the samples have only ever
come from water.
To discover the eDNA in the air, Clare and her team used a pump
to draw air through a 45-22 micrometer filter to a housing colony of mole rats.
They also did multiple samples with time being one factor, seeing if the longer
it ran the more sample it collected as well as where they took the sample. One
was in the burrows created by the mole rats and the other was at the top of the
larger room. This eas the only thing that led to significant difference was
the burrow size vs the large room in yield amount of sample collected, the burrow led to more sample due to being more condensed area. It seemed time
and filter size did not have an effect.
The problem these scientists now face is contamination.
In the negative control, human DNA was found in there, which would suggest it came
from the scientists. This can then conclude that the mole-rat samples are also contaminated
with human DNA. Other scientists have done studies similar to plant's eDNA and
could use techniques that they used such as blocking probes during sequencing.
This will not allow for DNA from humans to amplify. Other suggestions include
using suits with respirators, also applying dust traps weeks in advance as
This research could leave to forensic science application.
Being able to determine who was in the room, can help find a convict a guilty
suspect. As well, it can be used in public health. Now, these advancements are
far away, as it was just discovered being able to extract eDNA out of the air. Soon
I think this will be very useful in getting even more accurate crime convections.
And protecting public health. It will also be interesting to see how long eDNA lasts in the air after an organism has moved away.