What Can Gel Electrophoresis Be Used For?by Mary Freeman
By applying an electric current to a gel matrix, scientists are able to separate deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), ribonucleic acid (RNA) or protein molecules. Once these are separated, a photo is taken of the gel, providing a picture of the separated molecular parts. This process is called electrophoresis and helps us to better understand and identify the molecular components of living things.
In the world of forensics, gel electrophoresis is used to obtain a DNA fingerprint of a criminal. This means that scientists can accurately tell whether two pieces of DNA, one found at a crime scene and one belonging to a suspect, are matches.
Microbiologists use gel electrophoresis on a regular basis. The process allows them to separate and organize DNA and RNA by size, thus making it easier to study them at the molecular level.
Gel electrophoresis not only provides geneticists with a clearer picture of DNA, it also helps prepare DNA for cloning and genetic engineering.
Since microbiology is centered around the study of organisms at the tiniest levels, gel electrophoresis is helpful in pulling information out about these organisms. Virology, a subset of microbiology, also uses the process to help diagnose different strains of viruses.
Biochemists work with cellular components, particularly proteins and nucleic acids. These components may also be mapped out using gel electrophoresis.