In its March 2014 edition, Nature Methods presents a technology feature on the use of digital PCR for challenging experiments. It describes scenarios of when and where scientists would want to employ digital PCR, showcasing several scientists with experience in using the technology for their applications. The article highlights applications such as quantifying tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in certain cancers as a prognosis indication, the assessment of HER2 in breast cancer to facilitate decision-making, and measuring cell-free mitochondrial DNA in cerebrospinal fluid. Compared to other technologies that may be used for these applications, digital PCR proves to provide the added sensitivity in an absolute manner, often demonstrating the ability to decrease costs in current workflows. Stephen Jackson, Director of genetic analysis applications research at Life Technologies, points out that the “sweet spot” for many digital PCR applications occurs at 20,000 partitions (individual reactions of a target molecule in a sample). He highlights how the QuantStudio™ 3D Digital PCR System helps to accomplish many of these applications with its 20,000 partition chip-based platform. In addition to the application highlights, Jo Vandesompele from Ghent University/Biogazelle shares his opinions and tips about the use of digital PCR. While he mentions that qPCR will not be replaced by digital PCR, he does point out that digital PCR might be the right choice for some application such as detection of rare mutations or copy-number variants. In agreement, Stephen Jackson is quoted as saying that digital PCR is “not going to be the hammer that hits every nail”, where in essence, researchers will use qPCR and digital PCR side-by-side. For those that want to venture into the new world of digital PCR, be sure to check out Jo’s digital PCR tips.
Read the article and let us know your thoughts about digital PCR’s role for your applications.