Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a technique used to amplify a specific DNA fragment, often starting with a small amount of template DNA, such as a single bacterial colony
. PCR is a time-consuming process, especially when done manually. Automating PCR prep can significantly improve the efficiency and accuracy of laboratory work, and increase the margin of bacterial colony purity. Automating PCR can also reduce risk when your lab is working with hazardous materials, making it an excellent choice for forensic testing or infectious disease diagnostics. In addition, PCR is key in the growing discipline of synthetic biology
, which requires high throughputs made possible by automation. Read on to learn more about automating PCR prep in your lab.
Benefits of PCR Automation
One of the primary benefits of automating PCR prep is increased accuracy. Since PCR amplifies a DNA sequence millions of times, it’s essential to have high accuracy through each step of the process. Template DNA can be very limited in quantity, like a single human hair or a bacterial colony growing on contaminated food. Automating steps of the PCR process reduces the risk of human error and ensures that the PCR prep is consistent every time.
How can you automate PCR prep in your laboratory? The most comprehensive tool is a PCR robot, a specialized machine that automates the PCR process from start to finish. These machines, also known as PCR prep robots, are equipped with pipetting robots, incubators, and other necessary equipment to prepare the PCR samples automatically. Using a PCR robot can save labs time and money while improving experiment reproducibility.
Colony Picking Robots
A versatile automation solution for PCR is a colony picking robot, which is a specialized machine that automatically picks bacterial colonies for further analysis. These robots are equipped with a high-resolution camera and specialized software to accurately identify and pick individual bacterial colonies. Using a colony picking robot can help you choose the right bacterial colony for your PCR experiment. These machines are useful as you prep for your PCR by choosing the right bacterial colony to amplify. Single-cell analysis is increasingly common, with applications in oncology and synthetic biology. Eliminating a single cell from a bacterial colony requires micromanipulation, which automated colony pickers can expedite.
PCR relies on repeated heat cycling to denature, anneal, and extend DNA strands. When PCR was originally developed, scientists used a series of water baths to complete the thermal cycling process. Now, thermocyclers are ubiquitous in labs performing PCR experiments. The thermocycler controls the temperature of the reaction by heating and cooling the PCR tube, typically in a block of heated metal.
The final tool commonly used to automate PCR and other experiments is a liquid handler. Liquid handlers are specialized robots that can handle and transfer samples and reagents. Typically a liquid handler includes a control arm to move the device, dispensing heads to distribute liquid, and sensors to provide feedback to the control center. As a result, liquid handlers increase your lab’s throughput and free up time for your lab techs to work more efficiently.
Whether you use a PCR robot, colony picking robot, or liquid handler, automating the PCR process can greatly benefit your laboratory. Increase your throughput, free up valuable time, and reduce the risk of human error by automating PCR.
Contact Hudson Robotics today for more information about automating the PCR prep in your laboratory.