How to Choose a PCR Machine
When buying a PCR machine, there are so many instruments on the market to choose from, so how should we choose?
I. Standard, quantitative or digital
Today's PCR machines are mainly divided into three categories: standard PCR (end-point PCR), real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) and digital PCR (dPCR). The standard PCR machine mainly produces a large number of nucleic acid sequences for subsequent experiments. qPCR is a real-time quantitative target sequence, which is usually used to determine the abundance of biomolecules, rather than to generate the final product. Digital PCR is also quantitative, but not real-time, more sensitive than qPCR, and does not require a standard curve. When we hear about copy number analysis or mutation detection, digital PCR usually provides a better and clearer answer, while for high-throughput applications, qPCR is more practical.
II. Sample form
Most users run PCR reactions in 96-well format, usually using 0.2 ml PCR tubes. Of course, there are other forms, suitable for higher throughput or different sample sizes. Although some PCR machines have fixed sample modules, many are interchangeable. Before buying, we should fully consider future plans. Some PCR machines allow the sample module to be replaced with two or more smaller modules. This modular system is like multiple thermal cyclers, which can improve efficiency.
In addition to modular PCR, there is another option, which is a rotor-type PCR machine, which controls the temperature by heating the surrounding air. The rotor system is like an oven. This form can achieve significantly faster heating and cooling cycles, and more accurately reach a specific temperature.
At present, the most common configuration is the standard 96-well module format. However, there are also higher throughputs on the market, such as 384-well or 1536-well formats. Customers should consider their current throughput requirements and the possible throughput requirements in 5-10 years. Generally speaking, the throughput of digital PCR is limited. If you need high-throughput work, qPCR may be a better choice .
Some PCR machines are designed for portability, allowing researchers, investigators, and military personnel to test specific genetic material on-site or outside the laboratory. But in most cases, the instrument is always placed on a crowded laboratory bench, which means that the small size is only an added value. Thermal cyclers require certain common components to maintain normal functions, such as heating elements, power supplies, and touch screens. "Therefore, high-performance thermal cyclers have a certain minimum size. Miniaturization has always been limited to a certain degree."
V. User experience
Simple and easy to use is also critical, not only conducive to normal operation, but also to reduce errors. The software interface is critical to the use of the instrument and the overall user experience, especially for diagnostic laboratories. Remote access also enhances the user experience, which allows users to adjust operations and view preliminary results, all on a smartphone or tablet. Experienced researchers usually focus on two key parameters: speed and accuracy.
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