What is polymerase chain reaction

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)

The polymerase chain reaction ("Polymerase Chain Reaction" - PCR) is the most important laboratory method for examining the fine molecular structure of the genetic material (so-called "molecular diagnostics"). The basis of the genetic material ("genetic material") is DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) - a long-chain molecule. In humans, the genetic material made up of double-stranded DNA (two complementary strands) is located in the nucleus of all body cells. The exact composition of the individual genome of each person is unique - comparable to a fingerprint (“genetic code”). With the help of PCR, on the one hand, the fine structure of human DNA can be examined, which is important for diagnosing diseases or for clarifying specific questions (hereditary diseases, risk of disease, forensic analysis, etc.).

On the other hand, not only does humans have the appropriate genetic material, but actually all life forms on earth have their own specific genetic material: animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc. in some viruses also from RNA (ribonucleic acid), which, in contrast to DNA, is single-stranded. In medical diagnostics, PCR is also used to clarify numerous infectious diseases: bacterial infections, viral infections, parasitic infections, etc.

For more information on PCR, see Laboratory Findings: Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).