Close-up of technician with gloved hand placing sample vials into a PCR thermocycler.
Ultrafast PCR technology efficiently and accurately detects and differentiates nucleic acids from samples, cutting down long testing times and procedural inconsistencies.

Ultrafast PCR to Revolutionize Precision Diagnosis

Soon-to-be-miniaturized PCR setup relies on stable photothermal materials, not heat plates

National Research Council Of Science & Technology
Published:Feb 22, 2023
|2 min read

PCR technology is a molecular diagnostics technology that detects target nucleic acids by amplifying the DNA amount. It has brought marked progress in the life sciences field since its development in 1984. This technology has recently become familiar to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as PCR can detect nucleic acids in the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, due to the technical nature of the PCR test involving high-temperature cycles (60–95?), results cannot be immediately delivered.

Dr. Sang Kyung Kim, director, and Seungwon Jung’s research team at the Center for Augmented Safety System with Intelligence Sensing, Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) developed an ultrafast PCR technology. By using photothermal nanomaterials, the ultrafast PCR shortens the test time 10-fold when compared to the time existing tests take. The new method is completed in five minutes and with diagnostic performance equal to that of the existing test method.

Photothermal nanomaterials generate heat immediately upon light irradiation, but it is difficult to maintain performance due to their low stability. The KIST research team has developed a polymer composite that physically holds photothermal nanomaterials and can overcome their instability. By applying the stable polymer to a PCR system, the team has successfully developed a compact PCR system without a heat plate. In addition, they implemented a multiplex diagnostic technology, enabling it to distinguish several types of SARS-CoV-2 variants in a single reaction.

Sang Kyung Kim says, “through additional research, we plan to miniaturize the developed ultrafast PCR technology this year, to develop a device that can be utilized anywhere. While maintaining the strength of PCR as an accurate diagnostic method, we will increase its convenience, field applicability, and promptness, by which we expect that it will become a precision diagnostic device that can be used at primary local clinics, pharmacies, and even at home. In addition, PCR technology is a universal molecular diagnostic technology that can be applied to various diseases other than infectious diseases, so it will become more applicable.”

- This press release was supported by the National Research Council Of Science & Technology