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Image of pipettors, robot and gel data for article on automated PCR.
Published On: April 20th, 2021

For many life science labs, establishing fully-automated PCR systems can really increase efficiency and reduce cost in the long run. The key to ensuring that the lab is really getting the maximum output out of PCR robots is simple but important: choosethe right equipment for every step of the process.Below, we break down the different steps and suitable equipment to create an automated PCR system in your lab.

Automated Standard PCR Essentials

The standard PCR protocol is broken down into four main steps: isolation of DNA or RNA, dispensing and pipetting of reagents, thermocycling, and analysis via agarose gel electrophoresis. While these can all be done manually, using the right PCR robots can really speed up the process.

Nucleic Acid Extraction

The proper extraction of nucleic acids (either DNA or RNA) from various sample types gives you a high-yield and high-quality nucleic acid sample for further work. In fact, this step is important for many downstream processes. To speed up the extraction process in automated PCR, there are various automated DNA extraction machines you can consider. A magnetic bead extraction station and positive pressure filter plate processor are perfect components for an automated PCR system as they can extract a high purity sample and be integrated with a range of PCR robots.

Dispensing and Pipetting of Reagents

The next step would be to prepare your reagent mix, and this can be done seamlessly and quickly via a microplate reagent dispenser machine. Connect this to a dedicated liquid handling system (an automatic pipettor), and the lab already has reagent preparation and pipetting taken care of for the PCR process.

Thermocycling

For the following steps, using a quality thermocycler that can be set up to carry out the necessary cycles as continuously as possible is desirable. Manual thermocycling is demanding and time-consuming, so integrating your thermocycler with the right robot arm, liquid handler, and automation software can beimportant. There are a large number of options in the market, and it’s best to try and match your lab’s automated PCR requirements with an option that will require little human intervention.

Electrophoresis Gel Analysis

After replicating the DNA sample through PCR, you need to analyze the content and quality of the sample through agarose gel electrophoresis. This step is time-consuming to set up especially if you have large amounts of sample. With an automated electrophoresis system, you can easily analyze multiple samples per run and save multiple protocols for any sample you need.

Additional Requirements for Automated qPCR

While the steps for fully automated qPCR or real-time PCR are similar to the conventional PCR labs that carry out this form of PCR may want to further invest in additional tools based on whether they mainly carry out dye-based qPCR or probe-based qPCR. The additional requirements of qPCRs may require specialized thermocyclers and reagents, but the essentials still remain the same.

Interested in setting up automated PCR for your lab? Contact Hudson Robotics to get a consultation on how to choose the best PCR robots and software options for your lab.