11/01/2011

Lab-based PCR research most accessed article in August

Stephen P Wampler, LLNL, (925) 423-3107, wampler1@llnl.gov



Mechanical engineer Reg Beer (right) and electronics engineer Gary Johnson test a new polymerase chain reaction (PCR) instrument developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that can process biological samples in less than three minutes.

Photos by Jacqueline McBride/LLNL

A scientific paper written by a team of LLNL researchers and engineers was the most-accessed article for the month of August for the international journal Analyst.

The paper, describing a device for the sub-three-minute amplification of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) using polymerase chain reaction (PCR), was written by a team that includes lead author and chemical engineer Elizabeth Wheeler and corresponding author and scientist Reg Beer.

Out of 70 papers published as "advanced articles" online by the Analyst in August, the Wheeler-Beer team paper -- "Under three-minute PCR: Probing the limits of fast amplification" -- was the number one most-accessed paper.

"Anything that can improve on a technique that is as broadly used as PCR is going to be of importance," said Vibhuti Patel, deputy editor of Analyst. "The potential application in doctor's offices is very interesting and could make this scientific technique much more widespread."

The standard approach to PCR typically takes about an hour, which is a vast improvement over pre-PCR techniques that required days. However, PCR for point-of-care, emergency-response or widespread monitoring applications needs to be faster still -- on the order of a few minutes, as the LLNL team has achieved.


A researcher loads a sample into
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's
new fast polymerase chain reaction
(PCR) instrument.

"We've been pleased with the strong interest this article has generated and the reception our technology has been receiving in the media," Beer said.

Other members of the LLNL team are biologists Christine Hara and Sally Hall, electronics engineer James Frank, biomedical engineer Joshua DeOtte, mechanical technician Bill Benett and mechanical engineer Christopher Spadaccini.

Analyst is published 24 times a year by Cambridge, United Kingdom-based RSC Publishing, which is part of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a not-for-profit organization for advancing the chemical sciences.

Launched in 1876, Analyst publishes fundamental breakthroughs in bioanalytical science, advanced analytical systems, analytical nanoscience as well as newly emerging and interdisciplinary areas.

To date, the Lab's sub-three-minute PCR technology has been reported on by a number of media outlets, including the CBS national radio network, The Osgood File, Scientific American and Bay Area televisions stations Channel 7 (KGO, San Francisco) and Channel 11 (KNTV, San Jose).

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provides solutions to our nation's most important national security challenges through innovative science, engineering and technology. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.