Molecular biologists have always faced the challenge of working with the smallest of specimens, expending a great deal of time and energy attempting to manipulate substances millions of times smaller than the size of the average cell. With the introduction of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) by Nobelist Kary Mullis and other scientists with the former Cetus Corp. in 1985, researchers can amplify their minute samples into a virtually unlimited supply of material to study.

Beginning with DNA or RNA from any biological source, such as a single plant or animal cell, an RNA virus, or bits of dried blood on a sidewalk, scientists can utilize PCR to make millions of copies of the target nucleic acid. With PCR, owned and licensed through Swiss pharmaceutical giant Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., researchers can amplify a targeted sequence a billion times, even when the target is only a tiny part of the initial...

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