Human DNA can now be pulled from thin air or a footprint on the beach. Here’s what that could mean
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of CNN News
Posted: May 22nd, 2023
Footprints left on a beach. Air breathed in a busy room. Ocean water. Scientists have been able to collect and analyze detailed genetic data from human DNA from all these places, raising thorny ethical questions about consent, privacy and security when it comes to our biological information. The researchers from the University of Florida, who were using environmental DNA found in sand to study endangered sea turtles, said the DNA was of such high quality that the scientists could ... determine the genetic ancestry of populations living nearby. They could also match genetic information to individual participants who had volunteered to have their DNA recovered. Human DNA that has seeped into the environment through our spit, skin, sweat and blood could be used to help find missing persons, aid in forensic investigations to solve crimes, locate sites of archaeological importance, and for health monitoring. However, the ability to capture human DNA from the environment could have a range of unintended consequences — both inadvertent and malicious. These included privacy breaches, location tracking, data harvesting, and genetic surveillance of individuals or groups. [Researchers] retrieved DNA from footprints made in sand by four volunteers. They were able to sequence part of the participants’ genomes. Next, the researchers took samples of air from a ... room in an animal clinic. The team recovered DNA that matched the staff volunteers [and] animal patients.
Note: This research was published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.