Gertsch Group

Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, University of Bern, Switzerland

About real-time RT-PCR - going back in time

About real-time RT-PCR - going back in time
Jurg Gertsch - Fri Sep 18, 2009 @ 05:37PM
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In the lab we just discussed real-time RT-PCR, RNA extraction, etc. When I was a student we did PCR in 1.5 mL Eppendorf tubes covered with mineral oil - there were no thermocyclers with heated lids to prevent evaporation of the reactions. And that's not that long ago. Today we are talking about 10 microL reactions. At university I heard about Kary Mullis and how he invented the PCR reaction at Cetus, how he just got the Nobel Price (1993) and I was very fascinated with his particular personality of an enfant terrible. In 2005, I finally met him during a visit at ETH Zürich. His talk was very, very special, so as not to say wired - the big lecture hall was full of people, all the professors, staff, students, etc. It was unique. Half of the audience just laughed and the other half got angry - as a result of that, during the coffee break, Kary was all alone at his table and nobody wanted to talk to him - so I had the great opportunity to easily approach him and to talk to him about Richard Dawkins' "the selfish gene", the concept of memes, also coined by Dawkins - Kary was very interested in memes and tried to explain to me the significance of the concept of memes for society, with a blue-eye tunnel vision sort of look. If you now wonder what memes are - a meme is a postulated unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, and is transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena - it's about replication of concepts, art that is replicated in different continents at the same time, inventions, according to Mullis just like a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) ... if you want to see a picture of that conversation in 2005 - here it is at ETH Life. Some years later I read Kary Mullis' autobiography - "Dancing Naked in the Mind Field" - yes, it's as cracy as it sounds, no, actually it's much more cracy than it sounds - if you want to read about how PCR was really invented, extraterrestrial encounters, Karys experiences with durgs, his passion for surfing, women, and why Kary thinks that there is no evidence that the HI virus is responsible for AIDS, say when you have some spare time, e.g. while you are waiting in front of the real-time PCR machine or a reaction to take place ... it's certainly a unique read, unique in the sense that you would not expect this from a Nobel Laureate. Definitively not!

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