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Top 4 Most Common Pitfalls in DNA/RNA Extraction for NGS (2023)

Imagine DNA and RNA extraction as baking a cake for a grand celebration - the Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) party, if you will. Your DNA and RNA are the key ingredients, the flour and sugar of your cake. A low-quality ingredient can ruin the party, leaving you with a cake that’s dry, crumbly, or worst of all, tasteless. And who wants that? No one, that's who. So, let's dive into the common challenges you might face during this baking - I mean, extraction - process, and how to overcome them.

The Problem of Low Yield

Let's be honest, extracting DNA and RNA can sometimes feel like trying to collect all the sprinkles that fell off your donut - it can be difficult and you may not end up with as much as you'd like. Low yield of DNA/RNA is one of the most common problems faced in the extraction process. It's like trying to bake a cake for 100 guests with only enough flour for 10.

This can occur due to improper handling, incorrect buffer volumes, or inefficient lysis of cells. One effective way to increase yield is to ensure complete cell lysis, which is like making sure you've cracked and mixed all your eggs well before adding them to the cake batter. You can also recheck and optimize your buffer volumes, akin to getting your cake recipe just right - not too much milk, not too little butter!

The Issue of Purity

Now that we've got the yield sorted, our next villain is impurity. Having unwanted substances mixed in with your DNA/RNA is akin to finding eggshell in your cake batter - it might not ruin the whole thing, but it sure isn't going to improve the taste. Common contaminants include proteins, polysaccharides, and phenol or ethanol from the extraction process itself.

These impurities can interfere with the enzymatic reactions in the NGS workflow, much like how eggshells can interfere with the texture of your cake. You can tackle this issue by ensuring proper washing and elution steps during extraction. It's similar to sifting your flour before baking to remove any unwanted lumps - it's an extra step, but it can make all the difference.

The Scourge of Degradation

You wouldn't leave a freshly baked cake out in the sun to dry and crumble, right? Similarly, DNA and RNA degradation can pose a significant challenge. This could be due to the presence of nucleases, fluctuating storage temperatures, or a pH imbalance.

Proper storage and handling of samples can go a long way towards preventing degradation. This is like storing your cake in a cake carrier in a cool, dry place - it maintains its delicious integrity. Using nuclease-free containers, maintaining cold temperatures, and checking the pH balance can help ensure your DNA/RNA stays in top shape for the sequencing fiesta!

The Enemy that is Contamination

Imagine baking a lovely vanilla cake, only to have it taste like garlic because you used the same chopping board as for dinner prep. Cross-contamination can happen in DNA/RNA extraction too. A classic enemy, this can be due to unclean equipment, aerosols, or even from previously extracted samples.

To prevent this unwelcome guest, change gloves frequently, use filter tips, and clean your workspace before and after extraction. Like thoroughly cleaning your kitchen utensils before baking, these steps can ensure that your DNA/RNA extraction results in pure, uncontaminated samples.


Just like baking the perfect cake requires attention to detail, careful handling of ingredients, and precise measurements, extracting high-quality DNA/RNA for NGS involves navigating and conquering several challenges. But with these tips and tricks up your sleeve, you can turn pitfalls into Picasso, creating the ideal starting material for your sequencing masterpiece. And remember, every great baker, or scientist, faces a hiccup or two along the way. It's all part of the art. So, happy 'baking'!

Remember, the world of DNA and RNA extraction might be filled with challenges, but with the right tools and a pinch of perseverance, your NGS party will be a hit! Now, who's ready for cake?

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