ABSTRACT: Reducing the time taken to run qPCR assays on today's qPCR cyclers is rather straightforward and requires no specialised reagents or instruments. As the first article in a new series of short technical reports, I demonstrate that it is possible to reduce significantly both denaturation temperatures and cycling times, whilst retaining sensitivity and specificity of the original qPCR conditions.
Project description:BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to optimize quantitative (real-time) polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assays for 8 major periodontal pathogens, i.e. Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, Fusobacterium nucleatum, Parvimonas micros, Porphyromonas gingivalis, Prevotella intermedia, Tanerella forsythia and Treponema denticola, and of the caries pathogen Streptococcus mutans. RESULTS: Eighteen different primer pairs were analyzed in silico regarding specificity (using BLAST analysis) and the presence of secondary structures at primer binding sites (using mFOLD). The most specific and efficiently binding primer pairs, according to these analyses, were selected for qPCR-analysis to determine amplification efficiency, limit of quantification and intra-run reproducibility. For the selected primer pairs, one for each species, the specificity was confirmed by assessing amplification of DNA extracts from isolates of closely related species. For these primer pairs, the intercycler portability was evaluated on 3 different thermal cyclers (the Applied Biosystems 7300, the Bio-Rad iQ5 and the Roche Light Cycler 480). For all assays on the different cyclers, a good correlation of the standard series was obtained (i.e. r2 ? 0.98), but quantification limits varied among cyclers. The overall best quantification limit was obtained by using a 2 ?l sample in a final volume of 10 ?l on the Light Cycler 480. CONCLUSIONS: In conclusion, the proposed assays allow to quantify the bacterial loads of S. mutans, 6 periodontal pathogenic species and the genus Fusobacterium.This can be of use in assessing periodontal risk, determination of the optimal periodontal therapy and evaluation of this treatment.
Project description:Nucleic acid testing (NAT) is important for the identification and quantification of specific nucleic acid targets, both DNA and RNA, in life sciences and clinical diagnostics. Nucleic acid amplification can be a time-consuming step in NAT using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay. Therefore, this study aimed to develop a simple method to reduce the amplification time while maintaining the PCR system. The three-step process of a general qPCR was reduced to a two-step process. The annealing/extension temperatures were increased to minimize the differences between the denaturation temperature and the annealing/extension temperatures. Subsequently, the time for each of these steps was reduced and, finally, the denaturation temperature was lowered. Taq polymerase was replaced with SD polymerase because it has strand displacement activity and is efficient in amplifying partial dsDNA at lower denaturation temperatures. In the two-step qPCR of genomic DNA using SD polymerase, the final conditions included an initial denaturation at 92 °C for 2 min, and 1 s at each cycling step with a denaturation temperature of 87 °C and an annealing/extension temperature of 72 °C. Amplification of the nucleocapsid (<i>N</i>) gene of SARS-CoV-2 RNA virus was evaluated at a template concentration as low as 10 copies. This method, named SF-qPCR (strand displacement-based fast quantitative polymerase chain reaction), can stably detect less than 10 copies of DNA and RNA within 25-40 min. This new protocol allows for sensitive and rapid detection of important DNA and RNA targets in clinical diagnosis.<h4>Supplementary information</h4>The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s13206-021-00044-x.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Many modern molecular diagnostic assays targeting nucleic acids are typically confined to developed countries or to the national reference laboratories of developing-world countries. The ability to make technologies for the rapid diagnosis of infectious diseases broadly available in a portable, low-cost format would mark a revolutionary step forward in global health. Many molecular assays are also developed based on polymerase chain reactions (PCR), which require thermal cyclers that are relatively heavy (>20 pounds) and need continuous electrical power. The temperature ramping speed of most economical thermal cyclers are relatively slow (2 to 3 °C/s) so a polymerase chain reaction can take 1 to 2 hours. Most of all, these thermal cyclers are still too expensive ($2k to $4k) for low-resource setting uses.<h4>Methodology/principal findings</h4>In this article, we demonstrate the development of a low-cost and rapid water bath based thermal cycler that does not require active temperature control or continuous power supply during PCR. This unit costs $130 to build using commercial off-the-shelf items. The use of two or three vacuum-insulated stainless-steel Thermos food jars containing heated water (for denaturation and annealing/extension steps) and a layer of oil on top of the water allow for significantly stabilized temperatures for PCR to take place. Using an Arduino-based microcontroller, we automate the "archaic" method of hand-transferring PCR tubes between water baths.<h4>Conclusions/significance</h4>We demonstrate that this innovative unit can deliver high speed PCR (17 s per PCR cycle) with the potential to go beyond the 1,522 bp long amplicons tested in this study and can amplify from templates down to at least 20 copies per reaction. The unit also accepts regular PCR tubes and glass capillary tubes. The PCR efficiency of our thermal cycler is not different from other commercial thermal cyclers. When combined with a rapid nucleic acid detection approach, the thermos thermal cycler (TTC) can enable on-site molecular diagnostics in low-resource settings.
Project description:We developed an ultrafast one-step RT-qPCR assay for SARS-CoV-2 detection, which can be completed in only 30 min on benchtop <i>Bio-Rad</i> CFX96. The assay significantly reduces the running time of conventional RT-qPCR: reduced RT step from 10 to 1 min, and reduced the PCR cycle of denaturation from 10 to 1 s and extension from 30 to 1 s. A cohort of 60 nasopharyngeal swab samples testing showed that the assay had a clinical sensitivity of 100% and a clinical specificity of 100%.
Project description:Quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) assay is the gold standard recommended to test for acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, it generally requires expensive equipment such as RNA isolation instruments and real-time PCR thermal cyclers. As a pandemic, COVID-19 has spread indiscriminately, and many low resource settings and developing countries do not have the means for fast and accurate COVID-19 detection to control the outbreak. Additionally, long assay times, in part caused by slow sample preparation steps, have created a large backlog when testing patient samples suspected of COVID-19. With many PCR-based molecular assays including an extraction step, this can take a significant amount of time and labor, especially if the extraction is performed manually. Using COVID-19 clinical specimens, we have collected evidence that the RT-qPCR assay can feasibly be performed directly on patient sample material in virus transport medium (VTM) without an RNA extraction step, while still producing sensitive test results. If RNA extraction steps can be omitted without significantly affecting clinical sensitivity, the turn-around time of COVID-19 tests, and the backlog we currently experience can be reduced drastically. Furthermore, our data suggest that rapid RT-PCR can be implemented for sensitive and specific molecular diagnosis of COVID-19 in locations where sophisticated laboratory instruments are not available. Our USD 300 set up achieved rapid RT-PCR using thin-walled PCR tubes and a water bath setup using sous vide immersion heaters, a Raspberry Pi computer, and a single servo motor that can process up to 96 samples at a time. Using COVID-19 positive clinical specimens, we demonstrated that RT-PCR assays can be performed in as little as 12 min using untreated samples, heat-inactivated samples, or extracted RNA templates with our low-cost water bath setup. These findings can help rapid COVID-19 testing to become more accessible and attainable across the globe.
Project description:Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the most commonly used technique in molecular biology and diagnostics. To achieve faster PCR reaction time, two strategies were employed by previous studies. That includes improving the thermal ramp rate by developing novel devices to reduce the time wasted on temperature transitions and cutting the holding time in every step, which could even lead to compromise in amplification efficiency. Hence the need to further improve the technique. Methods: A different way to achieve fast DNA amplification is developed by using the previously thought wasted time spent on heating and cooling the samples to finish the amplification. That means the holding time of the three procedures are omitted and this could be carried out on the ordinary PCR thermal cyclers. Results: 2/3 of the amplification time is easily saved, compared to the conventionally used method. Additionally, the reaction time could be further reduced by using longer primers with higher melting temperature (Tm). The record time of the "V" shape Polymerase chain reaction (VPCR) conducted on ordinary PCR machine for amplification of a 98 bp fragment is 8 min. Furthermore, VPCR still retains the merits of traditional PCR technique, including specificity, sensitivity, generality, and compatibility with quantitative detection. Conclusion: It is confirmed that the three procedures of PCR could be completed during the dynamic heating and cooling process when the cyclers are run at a moderate thermal ramp rate. As VPCR described here is based on the current PCR system, it could be implemented in any biological Lab immediately and provide great convenience to the people working in the field of life science and human health.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (QPCR) is a widely applied analytical method for the accurate determination of transcript abundance. Primers for QPCR have been designed on a genomic scale but non-specific amplification of non-target genes has frequently been a problem. Although several online databases have been created for the storage and retrieval of experimentally validated primers, only a few thousand primer pairs are currently present in existing databases and the primers are not designed for use under a common PCR thermal profile.<h4>Results</h4>We previously reported the implementation of an algorithm to predict PCR primers for most known human and mouse genes. We now report the use of that resource to identify 17483 pairs of primers that have been experimentally verified to amplify unique sequences corresponding to distinct murine transcripts. The primer pairs have been validated by gel electrophoresis, DNA sequence analysis and thermal denaturation profile. In addition to the validation studies, we have determined the uniformity of amplification using the primers and the technical reproducibility of the QPCR reaction using the popular and inexpensive SYBR Green I detection method.<h4>Conclusion</h4>We have identified an experimentally validated collection of murine primer pairs for PCR and QPCR which can be used under a common PCR thermal profile, allowing the evaluation of transcript abundance of a large number of genes in parallel. This feature is increasingly attractive for confirming and/or making more precise data trends observed from experiments performed with DNA microarrays.
Project description:Practical laboratory classes teaching molecular pharmacology approaches employed in the development of therapeutic strategies are of great interest for students of courses in Biotechnology, Applied Biology, Pharmaceutic and Technology Chemistry, Translational Oncology. Unfortunately, in most cases the technology to be transferred to learning students is complex and requires multi-step approaches. In this respect, simple and straightforward experimental protocols might be of great interest. This study was aimed at presenting a laboratory exercise focusing (a) on a very challenging therapeutic strategy, i.e. microRNA therapeutics, and (b) on the employment of biomolecules of great interest in applied biology and pharmacology, i.e. peptide nucleic acids (PNAs). The aims of the practical laboratory were to determine: (a) the possible PNA-mediated arrest in RT-qPCR, to be eventually used to demonstrate PNA targeting of selected miRNAs; (b) the possible lack of activity on mutated PNA sequences; (c) the effects (if any) on the amplification of other unrelated miRNA sequences. The results which can be obtained support the following conclusions: PNA-mediated arrest in RT-qPCR can be analyzed in a easy way; mutated PNA sequences are completely inactive; the effects of the employed PNAs are specific and no inhibitory effect occurs on other unrelated miRNA sequences. This activity is simple (cell culture, RNA extraction, RT-qPCR are all well-established technologies), fast (starting from isolated and characterized RNA, few hours are just necessary), highly reproducible (therefore easily employed by even untrained students). On the other hand, these laboratory lessons require some facilities, the most critical being the availability of instruments for PCR. While this might be a problem in the case these instruments are not available, we would like to underline that determination of the presence or of a lack of amplified product can be also obtained using standard analytical approaches based on agarose gel electrophoresis.
Project description:Quantitative PCR allows the precise measurement of DNA concentrations and is generally considered to be straightforward and trouble free. However, a survey with 93 validated assays for genes in the Wnt-pathway showed that the amplification of nonspecific products occurs frequently and is unrelated to Cq or PCR efficiency values. Titration experiments showed that the occurrence of low and high melting temperature artifacts was shown to be determined by annealing temperature, primer concentration and cDNA input. To explore the range of input variations that occur in the normal use of the Cre assay these conditions were mimicked in a complete two-way design of template -plasmid DNA- and non-template -mouse cDNA- concentrations. These experiments showed that the frequency of the amplification of the correct product and the artifact, as well as the valid quantification of the correct product, depended on the concentration of the non-template cDNA. This finding questions the interpretation of dilution series in which template as well as non-template concentrations are simultaneously decreasing. Repetition of this cDNA concentration experiment with other templates revealed that exact reproduction qPCR experiments was affected by the time it takes to complete the pipetting of a qPCR plate. Long bench times were observed to lead to significantly more artifacts. However, the measurement of artifact-associated fluorescence can be avoided by inclusion of a small heating step after the elongation phase in the amplification protocol. Taken together, this trouble-shooting journey showed that reliability and reproducibility of qPCR experiments not only depends on standardization and reporting of the biochemistry and technical aspects but also on hitherto neglected factors as sample dilution and waiting times in the laboratory work flow.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Early identification of patients requiring palliative care is a major public health concern. A growing number of instruments exist to help professionals to identify these patients, however, thus far, none have been thoroughly assessed for criterion validity. In addition, no currently available instruments differentiate between patients in need of general vs. specialised palliative care, and most are primarily intended for use by physicians. This study aims to develop and rigorously validate a new interprofessional instrument allowing identification of patients in need of general vs specialised palliative care. METHODS:The instrument development involved four steps: i) literature review to determine the concept to measure; ii) generation of a set of items; iii) review of the initial set of items by experts to establish the content validity; iv) administration of the items to a sample of the target population to establish face validity. We conducted a Delphi process with experts in palliative care to accomplish step 3 and sent a questionnaire to nurses and physicians non-specialised in palliative care to complete step 4. The study was conducted in the French and Italian-speaking regions of Switzerland. An interdisciplinary committee of clinical experts supervised all steps. RESULTS:The literature review confirmed the necessity of distinguishing between general and specialised palliative care needs and of adapting clinical recommendations to these different needs. Thirty-six nurses and physicians participated in the Delphi process and 28 were involved in the face validity assessment. The Delphi process resulted in two lists: a 7-item list to identify patients in need of general PC and an 8-item list to identify specialised PC needs. The content and face validity were deemed to be acceptable by both the expert and target populations. CONCLUSION:This instrument makes a significant contribution to the identification of patients with palliative care needs as it has been designed to differentiate between general and specialised palliative care needs. Moreover, diagnostic data is not fundamental to the use of the instrument, thus facilitating its use by healthcare professionals other than physicians, in particular nurses. Internal and criterion validity assessments are ongoing and essential before wider dissemination of the instrument.