A new addition to the MSSU and Newman Innovation Center DNA Training and Research Lab at Missouri Southern is putting students on the cutting edge when it comes to hands-on learning.

The university recently purchased a qPCR thermocycler for the lab, said Dr. Gerald Schlink, professor of biology and environmental health.

Students can watch the results of the DNA analysis in real time, via a cloud-based app.

Students can watch the results of the DNA analysis in real time, via a cloud-based app.

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplifies and quantitates a DNA sequence via a series of temperature changes. Results allow researchers to identify DNA sequences from viruses, bacteria, fungi, plants and animals.

“It’s a brand new machine, and at this point we’re working to incorporate this technology into our curriculum starting at the freshman level,” said Schlink. “We wanted to do something students can do with their DNA that they could easily grasp, so we decided to identify the gene that controls gender.”

From mouth swabs, students will amplify their DNA through the qPCR thermocycler to spot a spike in the real-time analysis that indicates the presence of a gene on the Y chromosome – indicating that the sample is from a male.

Schlink said that using older equipment, a similar analysis could take several hours. The new machine can generate results in about 40 minutes, he said.

Manufactured by ThermoFisher Scientific, the qPCR machine connects to the “cloud,” which allows students to monitor the analysis while it is underway from their smartphones.

“It was just released from the manufacturer with new features,” said Schlink. “Few universities have access to this new version and we are excited to offer this new technology for our students to use.”