A nucleic acid thermal cycler is considered to be portable if it is under ten pounds, easily carried by one individual, and battery powered. Nucleic acid amplification includes both polymerase chain reaction (e.g. PCR, RT-PCR) and isothermal amplification (e.g. RPA, HDA, LAMP, NASBA, RCA, ICAN, SMART, SDA). There are valuable applications for portable nucleic acid thermocyclers in fields that include clinical diagnostics, biothreat detection, and veterinary testing. A system that is portable allows for the distributed detection of targets at the point of care and a reduction of the time from sample to answer. The designer of a portable nucleic acid thermocycler must carefully consider both thermal control and the detection of amplification. In addition to thermal control and detection, the designer may consider the integration of a sample preparation subsystem with the nucleic acid thermocycler. There are a variety of technologies that can achieve accurate thermal control and the detection of nucleic acid amplification. Important evaluation criteria for each technology include maturity, power requirements, cost, sensitivity, speed, and manufacturability. Ultimately the needs of a particular market will lead to user requirements that drive the decision between available technologies.
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