Electrophoresis is a fundamental laboratory technique used to separate and analyze macromolecules, such as DNA, RNA, proteins and other charged particles, based on their size, shape, charge and mobility in an electric field. The principle of electrophoresis is that charged molecules move through a gel or solution when subjected to an electric field.
The process involves a gel-like matrix, often composed of agarose or polyacrylamide, through which an electric current is applied.
There are several types of electrophoresis:
Gel Electrophoresis: This is commonly used for separating DNA, RNA or proteins. Molecules are loaded into wells in a gel matrix and when an electric current is applied, they migrate through the gel at different rates, resulting in separation based on size and charge.
Polyacrylamide Gel Electrophoresis (PAGE): Often used for proteins, PAGE provides higher resolution separation due to its finer gel matrix. It is useful for analyzing proteins of similar sizes.
Capillary Electrophoresis: This technique utilizes a thin capillary tube filled with an electrolyte solution to separate molecules. It is efficient for DNA sequencing, genotyping and protein analysis.
Isoelectric Focusing: The separation of proteins is done on the basis of their isoelectric points, the pH at which they have no net charge.
The few examples of the applications of electrophoresis in scientific research, medicine and various industries are:
Electrophoresis is an essential tool in clinical diagnoses, virology, plant and microbial genetics, food analysis, forensic science, molecular biology and biochemistry, allowing researchers to analyze and purify biomolecules for various applications, such as DNA fingerprinting, protein characterization and DNA fragment size determination. Additionally, it is crucial in the development of biopharmaceuticals, where protein purity and characterization are critical.