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Do-it-Yourself PCR

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Currently Open Source principles are offering interesting tools for doing molecular biology at an incredibly low cost. One interesting example is OpenPCR (www.openPCR.org) a project developed in order to ensure that the basic technology to perform PCR is affordably and openly available to all. In the past one of the main barriers for introducing PCR technology at small labs, as well for research or for learning purposes, has been thermocycler costs. From the beginning the aim of this project has been to overcome this problem.

The OpenPCR device (to build yourself) has the minimum capabilities for successfully performing PCR reactions. The low-cost aspect of the kit has enabled numerous students, biohackers, high schools, academic labs, and small companies to perform PCR. The open nature of the kit has allowed researchers to modify the machine to perform PCR and other temperature-controlled reactions in myriad ways beyond what traditional thermocyclers could provide; researches have modified it to work with everything from microfluidics to specialized reaction chambers.

Once you have your own PCR platform you’ll able to find the necessary reagents in the OpenBiotechnology site, which also apply the Open source principles to reagents.

What else? If you are doing conventional PCR, you’ll need one gel electrophoresis system along with one transillumintaor to detect your PCR product. Don’t worry about it; if you have been capable of assembling all the thermocylcer parts, they can be easily built following the instructions at http://www.instructables.com/

Several decades ago in the electronics and informatics field, groups of clever and enthusiastic guys, with easy access to technology, developed the basis of huge companies in their garages. Universal access to technology has been one of main driving force for science progress. It will be very interesting to see what will happen in molecular biology in years to come…

Related Reading

Do-it-yourself biology: challenges and promises for an open science and technology movement. Landrain T, Meyer M, Perez AM, Sussan R. Syst Synth Bio. 2013 Sep;7(3):115-26.

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