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What is an amplicon?

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An amplicon is any piece of DNA that has been produced using amplification techniques -- especially one produced artificially. Sometimes the term is also applied to DNA sequences that scientists intend to amplify.

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An amplicon is a product of DNA amplification, a process by which numerous copies of the same DNA sequence are created at once. Under normal biological circumstances, only one copy of a sequence is produced during DNA replication; however, in cancerous cells, amplification events occur frequently. The resulting amplicons serve as protection against cancer-destroying drugs and cause the unregulated cell growth that is characteristic of cancer.

Although amplicons occur inside cancerous cells, the term is more commonly applied to artificially produced DNA sequences rather than ones produced in vivo. These artificially produced amplicons are made in the lab using one of several techniques. The polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, is one of the most popular techniques for amplifying DNA in the lab, but it is not the only way. T7-based Linear Amplification of DNA, or TLAD, is a newer method for producing fewer but more accurate amplicons.

Either method produces numerous copies of sequences to aid study of the sequences in question. Amplicons are used in DNA fingerprinting, cloning and in paternity tests. They can also be used to check DNA for genetic diseases.

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