How An Automated On-Deck Thermocycler Saves Your Lab Time, Part 1: PCR

This post is an excerpt from our 10-page "How To Save Time In The Lab With An Automated On-Deck Thermocycler" e-book. Click here to download the e-book.

The difference between using an automated thermocycler on- and off the deck of your liquid handler is reclaimed time. What would you do with six extra hours in your lab?

Much like life itself, modern biotechnology is based on the ability to precisely copy DNA. Biologists have hijacked the nucleic-acid replication machinery built into cells to create Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)—a cornerstone method of modern molecular biology that allows them to copy DNA themselves.

The Time-Saving Evolution of PCR Technology

In 1983, Nobel Prize Winner Kary Mullis showed that you could manipulate the replication of a target DNA sequence by orchestrating your samples through a precise temperature sequence. Those days, performing a PCR experiment meant scientists would spend hours moving tubes to and from different temperature water baths by hand to achieve these temperature cycles.

In 1988, Celtis and Perkin-Elmer launched a device called a thermocycler to automate the precise temperature changes required for PCR experiments. It was faster and more efficient than the water bath method, but it cost over $100,000—far out of reach for most biologists. It wasn't until the mid 90’s when companies like ML Laboratories started manufacturing more affordable machines with heated lids that thermocyclers became accessible to most labs.

Figure-1
Time savings in evolution of PCR technology

Today, the time-saving innovations of PCR seem stagnant. Though new types of PCR—like quantitative and digital PCR—have been created, there have not been big strides in time-saving since the mid 1990s. Most biologists still work with thermocyclers technically similar to ones created 20 years ago, and still spend hours every week preparing reactions by hand.

That's why we made the Opentrons Thermocycler.

This post is an excerpt from our 10-page "How To Save Time In The Lab With An Automated On-Deck Thermocycler" e-book. Click here to download the e-book.