Trace Research Advanced Ultra-Clean Environment Facility

 Protective body suits used to minimise contamination

The ancient DNA clean room is located within the Trace Research Advanced Ultra-Clean Envrionment (TrACE) Facility at Curtin University. There are two purpose laboratories within the 400m2 facility dedicated to the extraction of low copy number DNA from ‘old’ or degraded samples (bone, sediments and coprolites). The rooms have a number of safeguards (both equipment and procedural) which aim to reduce contamination. The TrACE has extremely low ultimate particle counts that are achieved with ‘spaces within spaces’ and HEPA filtration. However, processing a sample in an ultra-clean environment will not guarantee a contamination free DNA extract as the sample may of been contaminated prior to lab arrival (for example bones that have been handled). In essence the goal of the ultra-clean environment is to minimise further contamination.

Personal wishing to conduct work in the ultra-clean environment must not have entered a post-PCR area that day - the aim of this procedural restriction is to minimise the possibility of physically carrying PCR products into the ultra-clean environment  DNA is everywhere - while this may be beneficial for many forensic circumatances, it is detrimental to analyses involving low copy number (LCN) DNA. When you handle a sample (without gloves) or breath on it you are depositing your DNA on that sample. Entrance into the ultra-clean environment is through a staging room where researchers get suited up (bodysuits, gloves, boots, face masks) prior to progressing through to the exclusion space and laboratories (clean 'spaces within spaces’ photograph below). 

The clean room environment plays a key role in minimising contamination - so do do procedures used in DNA extraction and PCR set-up. These procedures include:

- Multiple DNA extraction and PCR controls

- Using reagents/labwear suitable for use in a DNA clean room (e.g. Filter tips)

- Changing gloves often

- Processing only single samples or small batches

- Common sense approaches to minimise handling and potential of cross contamination

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