Electrophoresis is an analytical method in which a controlled electric current is used in order to separate biomolecules according to their size to electric charge ratio, using a gelatinous matrix as a base. This technique has a variety of practical uses, such as forensic medicine for human identification, the human genome project, protein and genetic mutation research, and clinical diagnostic testing.
What equipment is used in this technique?
Electrophoresis is carried out with equipment composed of a negative charge at one end and a positive charge at the other, called an electrophoresis system. When inserting charged molecules, in this environment, the negative ones will go to one extreme and the positive ones to the other corresponding. For example, when analyzing proteins on a gel, in these kits, the entire protein is taken to analyze its size. In this way, the shorter ones will migrate to the poles more quickly and will be reflected in the lower part of the gel. Instead, the longest will be at the top.
How does it work?
When a mixture of ionized and net-charged molecules are positioned in an electric field, they experience a force of attraction towards the pole that has the opposite charge, allowing the positively charged molecules to move towards the cathode (negative pole) for a certain time. positively charged will move towards the anode (positive pole).
Electrophoresis is a common technique in the clinical laboratory. It allows the separation of chemical species (nucleic acids or proteins) along an electric field based on their size and their electric charge.
Some types of electrophoresis
Filter paper and cellulose acetate electrophoresis: The electrophoretic technique with filter paper as a support is rarely used, and its use is limited to the separation of amino acids. In contrast, cellulose acetate or cellogel electrophoresis has a number of advantages over filter paper. It allows the separation of proteins, faster migrations and has higher resolution.
Agarose gel electrophoresis: Agarose gel is a good electrophoretic support. In addition, its nature gives it the characteristic of being able to separate molecules based on their size. This support allows nucleic acids to be separated based on their size. It is used to separate large molecules.
Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis: Polyacrylamide gel is considered the best support. They also have great mechanical stability and are insoluble in water. Among so many advantages there is a drawback that is limiting its use: it is neurotoxic. It is used for the separation of proteins and, like the agarose gel, allows the separation of molecules based on their size.
Capillary electrophoresis: This technique differs a lot from the previous ones. The support is different, since it uses fused silica capillaries, covered with a layer of polyimine. The results are visualized through a computer screen.
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