Application Spotlight: PCR Testing

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PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing is a phrase you may have come across often in 2020. Most of us have never heard it before. What is it?

The good people at genome.govexternal link refer to this process as “molecular photocopying” in laymen terms. The general idea is to create more DNA samples from a small amount of DNA samples in order to make detectable all the DNA present in a given sample.

It has gained prominence in our daily lives thanks to COVID-19. This process is considered to be the gold standard by which the most accurate COVID-19 test results are achieved. This style test looks for the virus, sars-cov-2, itself.

This test is supplemented by other testing such as antigen and antibody testing. Those tests utilize a different process as they are blood tests that are searching our blood for evidence of immune system reaction to the virus.

The process of PCR testing is complicated. I would try to paraphrase, but it is better that I provide the exact quote from genome.govexternal link.

“To amplify a segment of DNA using PCR, the sample is first heated, so the DNA denatures, or separates into two pieces of single-stranded DNA. Next, an enzyme called ‘Taq polymerase’ synthesizes - builds - two new strands of DNA, using the original strands as templates. This process results in the duplication of the original DNA, with each of the new molecules containing one old and one new strand of DNA. Then each of these strands can be used to create two new copies, and so on, and so on. The cycle of denaturing and synthesizing new DNA is repeated as many as 30 or 40 times, leading to more than one billion exact copies of the original DNA segment.

The entire cycling process of PCR is automated and can be completed in just a few hours. It is directed by a machine called a thermocycler, which is programmed to alter the temperature of the reaction every few minutes to allow DNA denaturing and synthesis.”

There are many ways different medical equipment OEMs try to automate the process. Heatron has been working with OEMs manufacturing heating elements to their PCR test equipment standards for 20 years. At the time of publishing this post, Heatron is making heating elements for many different OEMs that make PCR testing devices. These OEMs are a mix of established, perhaps even household, names as well as those in the start-up stage. The equipment itself varies from high volume, lab equipment to attempts at point of care (the doctor’s office or hospital) devices. The heating elements supplied are as varied as can be. No two OEMs we work with are developing anything that can be reasonably viewed as same heating platform.

Manufacturing for medical OEMs requires a certain level of diligence, process control, quality standards and traceability. Heatron excels at all of these and the long track record is the testimony. Heatron is a trusted collaboration partner for medical OEMs. Heatron is capable of manufacturing discrete elements as well as complex assemblies.

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