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BIOLOGY
Asked by Tim

What is gel electrophoresis?

Gel electrophoresis is a method of separating out what is known as macromolecules. These include DNA, RNA and other proteins. All these different proteins have different sizes. Difficult to know how much detail you need, but in general terms, a solution of proteins is added to a ‘well’ in a gel (often made pf agarose or polyacrylamide). An electric current is applied across the gel and different size proteins move through the gel at different speeds. Smaller molecules move through the gel faster due to their ability to path find through the pores in the gel better. Once the proteins have been separated, the gel can be stained with various chemicals (such as ethidium bromide for DNA) to visualise the proteins. A ‘ladder’ is run a well and through the gel and has bands at known molecule sizes. It essentially acts as a ruler to tell you what size a protein must be to show up in a particular part of the gel. The visualisation is compared to the ladder/scale to identify what proteins are present. So in basic terms - it is a way to separate proteins and identify what they are.

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Rachael Wood
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