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Polymerase Chain Reaction

Glossary

polymerase chain reaction

A laboratory method used to make many copies of a specific piece of DNA from a sample that contains very tiny amounts of that DNA. Polymerase chain reaction allows these pieces of DNA to be amplified so they can be detected. Polymerase chain reaction may be used to look for certain changes in a gene or chromosome, which may help find and diagnose a genetic condition or a disease, such as cancer. It may also be used to look at pieces of the DNA of certain bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms to help diagnose an infection. Also called PCR.

A procedure that produces millions of copies of a short segment of DNA through repeated cycles of: (1) denaturation, (2) annealing, and (3) elongation. Polymerase chain reaction is a very common procedure in molecular genetic testing and may be used to generate a sufficient quantity of DNA to perform a test (e.g., allele-specific amplification, trinucleotide repeat quantification). Also called PCR.

Last updated: 2016-10-26

Source: The National Cancer Institute's Dictionary of Cancer Terms (http://www.cancer.gov/dictionary)