It’s St Valentine’s Day, and hearts, flowers and chocolates are on (nearly) everyone’s mind. What does the polymerase chain reaction have to do with this, though?

PCR and hearts

Studies have proved that love is good for the heart, and the heart is thought of as the seat of love these days. The Greek poets, however, saw the seat of love as the bowels, which makes the chocolate shapes pretty interesting!


PCR can be used as a measure of progression of hypertension-induced heart disease, something that’s important to know in the one you love. US company miRagen Therapeutics used real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) to look at the circulating levels of a group of miRNAs in rats with heart failure, and found that they did change as hypertension-induced heart failure progressed or the animal responded to treatment. These levels could be useful in diagnosis, or to help doctors monitor therapy. The research is published in the European Journal of Heart Failure.

PCR and flowers

An orchid is a lovely gift on Valentine’s Day.

Phalaenopsis orchid

A team of Taiwanese researchers used reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) to look at the roles of the SEPALLATA (SEP) genes in flower development in the Phalaenopsis orchid. The technique was used to identify SEP-like genes from the P equestris flower by rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE) and RT-PCR with degenerated primers. Their findings (published in New Phytologist) could help with future breeding and growth studies.

Another PCR and flowers study here… and here… and here…

PCR and chocolate

Chocolates are a much appreciated gift at any time of the year, not just Valentine’s Day, but for people who have tree nut allergies, finding chocolate can be difficult, as so many products have precautionary labels.

chocolate hearts

Researchers at the University of Porto in Portugal have created a real time-PCR system that could check chocolate for compliance and cross-contamination with tree nuts such as hazelnuts.

The team spiked nut-free chocolates with 0.001-10% hazelnut, as well as testing 25 commercially-available types of chocolate. They used real-time PCR targeting the Hsp1 gene, and found that they could detect hazelnut down to 0.005%. They also found a number of inconsistencies in the labelling of commercially-available chocolates, both finding traces of hazelnut in chocolate labelled as ‘may contain traces of tree nuts’, and no hazelnut in products that had warning labels. The research was published in Clinical and Translational Allergy.

Another PCR and chocolate study