Alternative technology for DNA analysis

18 May 2005

A recent paper reports on a novel technique for specific amplification of DNA sequences with the potential to produce a significant impact on DNA-based applications, including mutation detection and analysis [Vincent M, Xu Y and Kong H (2004) EMBO Rep. 5, 795-780]. The basis of current technology is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a technique that allows the rapid and highly specific amplification of a single DNA sequence to a billion copies using a thermostable bacterial polymerase enzyme. PCR is a pivotal component of modern molecular biology and genetics; its inventor Kary Mullis was awarded a Nobel Prize in recognition of the crucial contribution made by this pioneering technique. One of the main limitations of the technique is the requirement for a PCR machine to create the necessary thermal cycling between optimal temperatures for the three stages of each cycle of the PCR reaction. Each PCR cycle comprises three stages, controlled by temperature: separation of the two strands of the DNA double helix (denaturation) at 90

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