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ADVANCE Discourse: Lab

Emerging PCR trends

Published December 27, 2013 2:50 PM by Michael Jones

Digital technology is a factor that affects almost every field across the country. Specifically, the implementation of digital counterparts to traditional tests and assays in the clinical testing industry has already started to leave a mark on the field. While the introduction of new techniques is common in the evolving backdrop of the industry, a new digital approach to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests is proving to have several benefits over its traditional predecessor.

In a recent news release from Dark Daily, the benefits of digital PCR testing approaches are singled out as a step towards more precise results due to a number of factors. It discussed the high sensitivity delivered by a digital PCR test, noting the test’s ability to “target specific DNA sequences in just one molecule of DNA.” This precision allows the digitalized PCRs to find inconsistencies or variances in mutant alleles, in some cases leading to entirely new assays. An example of this would be the introduction of Microbiome SenseIT bsh test developed by Jorge Ganopolsky, PhD, and his research team for Canada-based Company, Micropharma Limited.

According to the briefing, the test analyzes the amount of the bile salt hydroiase (bsh) gene in samples from the patient’s gut. BSH “produces an enzyme active in the human GI tract that modified bile acid for the benefit of its host,” and low numbers can result in complicated and disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and even Type 2 diabetes. The Microbiome SenseIT bsh test utilizes a droplet-based platform from Bio-Rad, which provides 95% accuracy and a quick turnaround time.

Other, chip-based platforms work by incorporating a disposable chip and separating samples. The briefing continued, pointing out that, “The idea is similar to drop technology in that each DNA partition ideally has one molecule of DNA and detects specific sequences using fluorescence.” Regardless of the technique or platform, digital PCRs single out molecules and target sequences specifically to provide more precision than traditional PCRs without being repeated to amplify the DNA.

According to the briefing, the current limitation of digital PCRs in terms of their application in the industry comes down to making the tool a standard for testing. This could be due to cost and ROI, a lack of familiarity with the instrument or simply a lack of applicability to certain types of research. While there are limitations, the article also noted that “expectations that wide adoption of digital PCR is inevitable. 

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