M-Vac Has Potential to Improve Sample Collection for Small Amounts of DNA When Traditional Methods Fail


A new device called the M-Vac,

a handheld vacuum that can isolate DNA from evidence

, could potentially improve the field of DNA sample collection and has been used to successfully develop a DNA profile in a cold case.


The M-Vac, originally created to remove bacteria from food products, is a tool that has the potential to efficiently sample a large area for small samples of touch DNA — DNA left behind on a surface as a result of simple contact. As described in a review by

Evidence Technology

, the M-Vac utilizes the traditional principles of a vacuum while spraying specific chemicals that promote the release of DNA particles from a sample.


While the M-Vac is a new advancement in sample collection technology, a private, forensic DNA-testing laboratory recently used the vacuum to collect DNA samples from an 18-year-old piece of evidence after traditional methods, such as swabbing techniques, failed to pick up the touch DNA.


A study from the Boston University School of Medicine evaluated the new technology to traditional methods and

developed a decision tree model to help determine the best method to use

, but practitioners have suggested that the M-Vac should be considered only after traditional methods fail to collect DNA evidence. These preliminary studies are limited by scope and by a small number of trials, so more research is needed to determine the best application of the M-Vac technology.

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