Seriously – it can be done. No longer in the realm of evil geniuses or high-end laboratories – by following instructions created by Stacy Kuznetsov and Matt Mancuso you can make your own Arduino-controlled PCR machine. PCR stands for “polymerase chain reaction” – a method of reproducing in great numbers a piece of DNA.
For a quick refresher – DNA is a hereditary material found in almost all organisms including humans, and it “contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms”. In other words – we all have it, and it defines who we are (or what something is).
Why would you want to reproduce DNA anyway? If you only had a tiny piece of DNA, and wanted to analyse it – having more than one copy is a good start. Or you may wish to isolate part of a piece of DNA to analyse it in more detail. Another popular use is to compare DNA from one foodstuff to another similar type, checking for genetic modifications or differences. This can be done with a centrifuge and a commercially-available GMO test kit.
The reproduction occurs by heating and cooling the sample over three temperature ranges continuously around thirty times, and in this case the system is controlled by an Arduino board, with a simple thermocouple used as a temperature sensor. The heat is generated very cheaply by running current through some ceramic resistors – which heat up nicely in this case. Using the Arduino you can always work on calibration and modification very easily.
Making your own PCR machine is relatively easy with the right tools. All of the parts are easy to find, and the construction process is very much straight forward – except for having to mill out a block of aluminium … however this can be done with a drill press and the right bits. The creators have documented the process down to each detail, making it easy to get started.
Considering all of this would have sounded like science-fiction twenty years ago, it is a credit to the designers that such a machine is possible – and affordable. So to get started on your own PCR machine – visit http://www.instructables.com/id/Arduino-PCR-thermal-cycler-for-under-85/?ALLSTEPS