What exactly is real-time quantitative PCR? Some believe you have to be able to watch the growth of the amplification curves during the PCR on a computer monitor in order to be truly 'real-time'. This of course is not the case. The ABI 7700 SDS software, the original real-time program, does not allow the visualization of the amplification curves as they progress throughout the run. This was primarily due to the way the SDS software performs data analysis utilizing the final data set from the whole plate rather than analyzing each reaction individually. Thus for some instruments, the final data have to be present for data analysis to proceed. For other instruments, it does not. The latter case allows the software to follow the progress of the amplification curve in each well in real time, which can be visualized on the computer monitor. This ability does not make these instruments exclusively 'real-time instruments'.
Thus, real-time PCR is the continuous collection of fluorescent signal from one or more polymerase chain reactions over a range of cycles. Quantitative real-time PCR is the conversion of the fluorescent signals from each reaction into a numerical value for each sample.
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