Pulse Controlled Amplification: A New Approach to Nucleic Acid Amplification

Molecular detection of nucleic acids has transformed molecular biology since the invention of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) nearly 30 years ago. The exceptionally sensitive and specific amplification of nucleic acids afforded through PCR, opened the door to many of the molecular diagnostic applications we see today.


Conventional PCR utilizes primers, recombinant DNA polymerase and nucleotides in a liquid solution to recreate DNA replication in vitro. To achieve amplification, heating and cooling of the solution is required to repeatedly denature DNA and allow for cycles of annealing and elongation of DNA molecules. These temperature cycles are typically achieved by an external heating block or a stream of air. However, the poor thermal conductivity of the reaction solution limits heating and cooling rates in conventional PCR, and increases the overall time of the reaction.


Pulse Controlled Amplification (PCA) is a nucleic acid amplification technology created using energy-converting nanomaterials. PCA operates on the same principles of DNA replication as conventional PCR. However, PCA takes advantage of the chemical and physical properties of nanomaterials to control the heating (denaturation) step needed in PCR, to drastically shorten reaction times.



PCA systems are comprised of nanomaterials activated by an external energy source.
The nanomaterials are chemically functionalized with nucleic acids to become
PCR-ready, while their physical properties allow for energy conversion
into heat directly on their surface.


For example, gold nanoparticles pulsed with a laser matching their plasmonic absorption wavelength, will selectively absorb laser light and emit heat, while the solution surrounding them remains at constant temperature. Repeated laser pulses can thus activate multiple cycles of DNA replication, and therefore control the overall amplification reaction. We call this exciting implementation of Pulse Controlled Amplification Laser PCR®.

Since the invention of PCR, temperature cycling has been a bottleneck in developing ultrafast molecular assays. PCA systems achieve controlled temperature cycles at the nano scale to greatly accelerate PCR reaction times and create new analytical possibilities across different industries and applications. With PCA, molecular testing can now be applied to multiple time-sensitive settings including the Point-of-Care, biosecurity, and food safety.


GNA Biosolutions launched its first PCA-based platform, the Pharos V8 in 2017. This open platform is powered by Laser PCR® to deliver ultrafast results, with signal detection in 10 minutes or less. GNA Biosolutions is developing additional platforms to deliver ultrafast, portable and easy-to-use applications for our molecular technologies, with more product launches coming soon.