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Have you ever wondered exactly how scientists study genes?

The human genome contains tens of thousands of genes, encoded in strings of millions of DNA ‘letters’.  It’s no small task to home in on one short sequence in this genetic haystack.

From cancer researchers to CSI-style forensic pathologists – and pretty much every molecular biologist in between – scientists rely on the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, to amplify specific genes from the mass of DNA in a sample of cells. It’s a bit like using a ‘molecular photocopier’, making many copies of an individual stretch of DNA, so it can be studied or manipulated in the lab.

Here’s a neat little video explaining how PCR works, created by Joe Milton from new science website Guerrilla Biology, and partly filmed at the our London Research Institute.