Word of the Week 5/5/18

PCR

By Annette Rey

Are you writing a mystery, crime, drama, or other story where laboratories are required to process DNA evidence? PCR is an acronym you will probably need to know.

PCR is an amplification process of a DNA sample that produces exact copies of the DNA sample. PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction.

This procedure produces enough DNA sample for testing in cases where little DNA evidence is found or where the sample is beginning to deteriorate. Technicians can duplicate millions of copies of the sample. The procedure can be performed repeatedly which then creates billions of perfect copies.

To eliminate cross-contamination with the technician or equipment, laboratory personnel must wear protective equipment, such as gloves and all tools and instruments must be sterile.

Lab personnel begin by heating the DNA sample and then pulling it apart. Then a short, artificial strand of DNA binds to the DNA sample. Heat is applied again which activates an enzyme. An identical copy of the original DNA strand is then produced.

You can lend authenticity to your work by including this type of particular detail. You can bring your reader into the laboratory scene if this is integral to your story. For instance, is your protagonist a lab technician/amateur detective? Then you would want to show her working, her thought processes, her attention to detail, etc.

If one of your main characters is not associated with the lab, it is better to just mention terms and test results in a less detailed manner. Too much technical information can slow down your story and distract your readers. You want to keep them engaged. Stick with scenes that keep your action moving forward.

Don’t neglect this type of research. Verify accuracy of your findings by referencing at least two other sources. Your readers will appreciate your work and remain faithful followers.

 

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