Currently reading: The Cell: Discovering the Microscopic World that Determines our Health, our Consciousness, and our Future by Joshua Z. Rappoport

Continuing with the technical theme, so far this is a deep dive into the very specific mechanisms of molecular biology without (yet) too much emphasis on particular cells.

What surprised me so far was that PCR (as a technology) is only as old as I am. It’s gained a lot of attention thanks to a particular virus we’ve all heard too much about. I’d never run one of these reactions myself (having not passed through a university biology department) and wasn’t aware of the technical details. I had heard various claims by armchair biologists that the COVID PCR test was “just detecting the flu” and that “if you run enough cycles you can find anything” but with a better explanation of how it works - primers and temperature cycling - it’s clear that’s all just a load of nonsense. I’m enjoying this one so far.

Also news to me was that RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction) is the name applicable to PCR of an RNA virus (as SARS-CoV-2 is) and not a meaningfully different version to PCR in that case, despite some listings having both.