There is no greater way for a product or service to gain credibility than to hear directly from the people who are using it. As a relatively new technology, the M-Vac System has gradually worked its way into the sampling protocols and procedures of a number of labs and agencies, helping to solve crimes that otherwise may have never been solved. Here are a few quotes regarding the technology and the impact it is having.
“Our Agency is in the process of purchasing the M-Vac System known for its advancements in DNA collection. Our department has already experienced success with this device…” – Alameda County Sheriff’s Office
“What we do in the field is dip the swab in water and wipe and you collect a little more [DNA] that way, but let’s say it’s on a piece of clothing; I want to get the DNA. Then you want to use the way you clean clothes, right? Which is you inject a liquid and you suck it out.” – Dr. Greg Hampikian, Director of the Idaho Innocence Project
“The M-Vac is the most powerful DNA collection method that we have ever witnessed. Our first unit was acquired July 30th, 2014. The unit was used as a last resort to process a brick in a brutal homicide that had stalled with the lack of substantial forensic evidence. Within one week of using the M-Vac, the full profile of the murderer was revealed and that case was solved. Our partnership with M-Vac Systems is highly valued as our positive case results remain continuous.” — Sgt Stewart Mosher
“We’ve been researching this collection method for some time, but only got a first hand look at it recently and just started testing it this month. Now that we have validated the M-Vac System ourselves, we are totally comfortable adopting it into our DNA collection processes, and are eager to use it in actual case work samples; especially on the more challenging evidence where DNA collection is most difficult. We are confident this new system will help our agency get DNA results where they may not have been achievable before, and that will be a good investment for our community.” — Rachel Grant, DNA TL
“Over the past year, DLI has utilized the M-Vac System on a wide variety of samples including items such as clothing, ropes, and even a car. One of the most common problems that forensic scientists encounter when screening clothing items for DNA is that there is often a great amount of DNA from the wearer, but very little from individuals that came into contact with the wearer. This is a situation where the M-Vac® collection system can be very helpful.”
“Overall, the M-Vac collection system is a very useful tool while screening evidence, especially in cases where very minor amounts of DNA are present over a large surface area. Using this system, DNA profiles have been generated that were not possible to obtain when previously generally swabbing the evidence.” — Cristina Rentas, Senior DNA Analyst
“Initially what was found was a partial Y-STR that had only 5 markers. All 5 of those matched John Wall but also matched his male children. The case went on for over a year before the M-Vac was used. It was huge. It was a huge development. The DNA the M-Vac found was one of two deciding factors in filing the murder charges. Without the M-Vacing we had limited DNA and limited results. It’s a great machine.” — Detective Cordon Parks
“The M-Vac worked, and it worked well. It consistently collected more DNA. It worked well with our downstream DNA processes and instruments. The question for us is where and when to use it. In some cases, the traditional swabbing method is still a reasonable option. However, this collection technique will enhance our ability to collect DNA from some more challenging evidence. It will work well with contact DNA, where the location of the contact is unknown and the quantities are small or the surface area is large. I look forward to finalizing the study and fully implementing this technology into operation.” — Michael Garvey, Ph.D., Director
“There are many officers, analysts and agencies that need to be thanked for their part in solving the Beslanowitch homicide. Without a doubt, the M-Vac System is the major tool that allowed us to make critical DNA connections in this case.” — Sheriff Todd Bonner
The M-Vac forensic DNA collection system is rapidly gaining recognition and notoriety as an efficient and highly sought after tool to collect better forensic DNA profiles and to help solve crime. As a relatively new system there are numerous questions about everything from how the system works to how does the operator avoid cross contaminating samples. Below are a number of the frequently asked questions about the M-Vac and how it is currently being used by both law enforcement agencies and forensic labs. If you have additional questions feel free to contact us here.
1 – Why would I use the M-Vac® instead of swabs or taping?
- Rough or porous surfaces
- Large surfaces
- Insufficient DNA
- Touch DNA, contact DNA or LT-DNA
- Failed or inconclusive results from traditional sampling
- Success starts with a good sample
2 – What about “Touch DNA”? Touch DNA, contact DNA or DNA material (usually epithelial cells) that has been deposited by the perpetrator by grabbing, touching or pressing up against an object, is an area where the M-Vac® System works well. When compared to swabbing, taping and cutting, it consistently collects more DNA material. The M-Vac® System’s ability to collect from the top surface and in the cracks and crevices of the evidence helps retrieve trace amounts of DNA material. A number of investigators are finding success where before there was little hope in generating a DNA profile.
3 – What biological materials can be collected?
The M-Vac® system collects epithelial cells (touch, saliva & urine), blood and seminal fluid (sperm). It simply collects the cells from the collection surface.
4 – What if traditional collection methods have already been used on an item?
The M-Vac® is a valuable tool in those scenarios and can often result in conclusive profiles even after traditional methods have been used and yielded inconclusive or partial profiles. It gives cases a second chance.
5 – Since the M-Vac® is so proficient at collecting DNA material, won’t it collect DNA that is not pertinent to the case?
It simply collects more of what is there. No method only collects the DNA material that is pertinent to the case. The tip of the swab is not sorting out which cells to collect. All of the methods simply collect from the evidence using their collection mechanism. Each method has advantageous and disadvantageous that need to be considered with each piece of evidence.
6 – Will the M-Vac® lead to inconclusive mixtures?
If a piece of evidence has a mixture of low-level DNA on it and a swab were to be used, it would often yield an inconclusive partial mixture. The M-Vac® unit’s advantage is it collects more of what is there. Why does that help? There have been a number cases where traditional methods, like swabbing, have yielded inconclusive mixtures and subsequent M-Vac® collections have resulted in conclusive major/minor profiles that helped move the case forward. It simply collects more DNA material and is a better representation of what is on the evidence.
7 – How is a sample taken?
The wet-vacuum is pulled across the evidence surface. Under the sampling head there is a “mini hurricane” caused by the solution spray and the vacuum forces. The DNA material is dislodged and transported by the solution as the vacuum collects it. The solution along with the DNA material is collected into a sterile bottle.
8 – What is the collection area of the M-Vac or where does it collect?
The M-Vac primarily collects a 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide swath. The picture shown to the right is a single pass down a test plate coated with fluorescent powder. For a little more detail, the entire collection head has a diameter of 1.375 inches (3.5 cm) and some collection occurs on each side of the swath, as seen in the picture.
9 – How small of a collection can I take with an M-Vac?
If the M-Vac is placed on the evidence, turned ON, pulled back a 1/4 inch (0.64 cm) and turned OFF, it will have a primary collection zone that looks like a 3/8 x 1 inch (0.95 x 2.5 cm) rectangle.
10 – How is the collection concentrated?
A 0.45 micron PES filter mounted in a disposable, sterile apparatus is attached to the vacuum of the SEC. The collection bottle is removed from the M-Vac, swirled and poured through the filter. The bottle is rinsed with collection solution or filtrate to ensure that the DNA material is transferred to the filter.
11 – How is the filter processed?
Once the DNA material is concentrated onto the filter material, it is cut into pieces and placed into a microcentrifuge tube, preferably a 2 mL tube. Several different processes can be used to extract the DNA. Qiagen, Chelex and Promega methods have all proven to be successful and popular. To request a full list of latest recommended methods and procedures, click here.
12 – What surfaces can be sampled with the M-vac?
The M-Vac® can be used on almost any surface, including rocks, shirts, pants, cinder blocks, bedding, carpet, gloves, hats, wigs, shorts, panties, sweatshirts, tape, upholstery, ropes, fabric, skin surfaces and many others.
13 – How will the M-Vac sampling system help me find a viable DNA profile?
The M-Vac® “wet-vacuum” collection typically retrieves more DNA material from the surface, it works well on rough and porous surfaces and it can collect from larger surfaces when needed. It simply increases the odds of collecting the DNA material that is available.
14 – What is the solution that is sprayed onto the evidence surface and is it sterile?
The solution consists of lab grade, sterile water with phosphate for stabilization. The solution is produced in a clean room and processed in a way to ensure it is DNA free. It is also gamma sterilized to maintain maximum shelf life.
15 – What prevents cross contamination?
All of the items that come in contact with the evidence are replaced between every collection. It makes a clean break between evidence collections and starts with sterile disposables each time.
16 – How much does the system cost?
A starter package which includes training in the United States costs about $27,500. The specific cost depends on the exact package and the travel associated with the training. If you would like to have a quote, please contact us by clicking here.
17 – What is the maximum sample surface area?
The M-Vac® can sample up to 2 square feet (1860 square cm) per collection bottle. The M-Vac® can sample one larger area or multiple smaller areas. Changing collection bottles is fast and easy, so collecting from a much larger area is possible too.
18 – How far away from the system can I take a sample?
Samples can be collected up to 60 feet away from the main unit (SEC).
19 – Is the system portable?
Yes, the SEC unit comes with a wheeled cart to facilitate movement to multiple sampling locations including evidence sampling in a lab or at the police station as well as at a crime scene. It can operate from a wall outlet or from a generator in a mobile application.