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PCR is a vital technology used in molecular biology and diagnostics. Temperature cycling creates a series of events : DNA denaturation, primer annealing, and polymerase extension. These stages of PCR result in exponential DNA amplification.

Thirty years have passed since PCR was discovered and many researchers have investigated techniques to make PCR faster (read more about Rapid-cycle PCR). In the early 90's, Rapid-cycle PCR was developed with 10 - 30 second cycles. Groups have aimed at 10 second cycles (2, 3), 5.25 - 4.6 second cycles (4, 5), 3 second cycles (6, 7) using various technological advances, and 2.7 second cycles (8) using gallium and glass capillaries.

Unfortunately, these attempts to reduce PCR cycles times compromised efficiency and yield as well as used simpler targets. Practical sub 5 minute PCR amplification of genomic DNA proved difficult.

Our objective of cycling at extreme speeds (0.4 to 2.0 seconds per cycle) required innovative instrumentation and increased concentrations of reagents (primer and polymerase concentration) to ensure not only speed but efficiency and yield. The resulting technique, Extreme PCR (Published in Clinical Chemistry), demonstrates the feasibility of while-you-wait testing for tests where immediate results are critical.

Watch Carl's lecture (Extreme PCR).

Figure Below: A slower example (for easier visualization) of the PCR and Melting Process

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