By Adam Corner
From quantifying a patient’s tumor DNA (Li et al. 2018, Klein-Scory et al. 2018), to counting the viral load (Liu et al. 2020) of an individual infected with COVID-19, the breadth of digital PCR (dPCR) applications continues to grow and fulfill critical scientific needs. One of the major advantages the technology confers is the ability to count nucleic acid molecules directly, rather than extrapolating quantity based on standard curves as with many other methods. By harmonizing diagnostic procedures on dPCR platforms, the scientific and medical communities can become more coordinated and efficient than ever before.
Scientists from many different disciplines routinely rely on nucleic acid quantification to conduct molecular testing. Tools to measure nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) have so far been semi-quantitative. But for definitive, quantitative results, metrologists — who study the science of measurement — need a method for counting the actual number of nucleic acid molecules in an experiment. They are exploring the possibility that dPCR might fit the bill. Because many research labs already use dPCR for precise nucleic acid quantification, work is being done to establish it as an official primary reference measurement procedure. This title would encourage labs worldwide to turn to dPCR to reduce variation and bias in their assays, leading to greater standardization of nucleic acid quantification throughout science and medicine.