The longevity research literature citations that appear in this blog or in my treatise are increasingly likely to refer to recombinant DNA laboratory analysis techniques like Western blot analysis, PCR, Alkaline lysis, Column chromatography, Sanger sequencing, Agarose gel electrophoresis, Radio-immune precipitation, and Sodium dodecyl (lauryl) sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. If you have not studied these, after repeatedly coming across some of them you may wonder what in the dickens they are, how they work and what they are good for. I recently came across Mama Ji’s Molecular Kitchen, a web site that explains a number of these basic techniques in simple language. Further, it tells you in a cookbook fashion how to go about doing each of them if you are so inclined. The site also covers a few key molecular genetic entities like Plasmids and Restriction Enzymes.
My basic message is that if you are reading a research report of otherwise great interest but come across entities you know nothing about, you don’t necessarily have to let yourself be thrown. In many cases the concept behind an arcane technical term is quite simple:
· Take PCR (polymerase chain reaction) for example. “Let’s say you have a biological sample with trace amounts of DNA in it. You want to work with the DNA, perhaps characterize it by sequencing, but there isn’t much to work with. This is where PCR comes in. PCR is the amplification of a small amount of DNA into a larger amount. It is quick, easy, and automated. Larger amounts of DNA mean more accurate and reliable results for your later techniques(ref).”
· Restriction Enzymes, another example, are used as scissors for cutting DNA. “Restriction enzymes, also known as restriction endonucleases, are enzymes that cut a DNA molecule at a particular place. They are essential tools for recombinant DNA technology. The enzyme “scans” a DNA molecule, looking for a particular sequence, usually of four to six nucleotides. Once it finds this recognition sequence, it stops and cuts the strands. This is known as enzyme digestion(ref).”