Posted by: salamandercandy | September 2, 2006

PCR is so last week

How lucky I and my fellow Salamander Candy authors are to be conducting research at this point in history. Much of what we do falls within the domain of Molecular Ecology, a relatively young field which combines the tools and tricks of molecular biology and genetics with those of—you guessed it—ecology. The things I do in the lab on a daily basis seem like science fiction to many people, including myself. Biologists working twenty, fifty, and one hundred years ago must have felt that what they were doing was cutting edge. And they were right, of course, assuming that the methods they employed were “state-of-the-art” at the time.

Inevitably, the fancy machines, lab procedures, and analytical methods that give me and my colleagues seemingly god-like powers today will seem quaint and outdated in a decade or so. Such is the way of progress and I welcome it. What new method is around the corner that will revolutionize Molecular Ecology? What will change how we do everything—the way that PCR did? It’s exciting to think of the possibilities…

I was inspired to write this post when I came across this article about “digital detection” of DNA molecules. This technique, if it ever becomes practical, might make PCR and conventional DNA sequencing obsolete for many applications. And maybe it will speed things up in the lab so that we beaker-heads can get out and see the Sun more often. Bitchin’, man.

Here’s the link to the original paper:

Label-Free “Digital Detection” of Single-Molecule DNA Hybridization with a Single Electron Transistor

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Responses

  1. Dude, just get a tri-corder!

  2. Like I like to say the students I supervise, when I did a population genetic analysis during my master, I had to extract DNA manually with the old chloroform protocole, and the gross population size was 300 individuals, which was already a “big” sample at that time.

    Nowadays, this sample size is 1.5 days of work (instead of 2 weeks) thanks to extraction kits.

    At that time, 96-wells pcr plates was fairly new, compared to the 54 of previous machines (sometimes still used so far).

    Now that we can enjoy capillary-based PCR runs, we spare a migration time at about 2 to 4 days (traditional old silver-nitrate protocole with acrylamide gels): a few hours instead.

    So I could have done all the job in two weeks instead of two monthes. And that was not that far ago… So that your estimation of techonology evolving in a “decade” is a pessimistic guess…


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