Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a relatively new laboratory technique that produces large amounts of specific DNA sequences in vitro, using only a small sample of genetic material. Researchers are using PCR to diagnose genetic disorders and to detect pathogens from viruses associated with AIDS, adult T-cell leukemia, and cervical cancer, as well as many other infectious diseases. The impact of PCR has, in fact, been so great that this field was identified as the second hottest area in all of science, according to an unpublished survey recently conducted by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) in Philadelphia. In 1988, only the field of high-temperature superconductors exceeded PCR in immediacy, a measure ISI uses to gauge activity and interest by the scientific community.

News of PCR’s ability to produce quickly (in a few hours) more than 1 million copies. from DNA samples previously too small for standard amplification was first...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?