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Electrophoresis

Agarose Gel Electrophoresis is a powerful analytical technique that separates biomolecules by size, shape, and charge using an electric field and a porous agarose matrix. Edvotek was the first company to focus on bringing this groundbreaking technology into the teaching laboratory.

Overview

In 1937, Arne Tiselius first separated biomolecules by size, shape, and charge using electrophoresis. This technique differed greatly from what we now think of as electrophoresis; in his experiments, Tiselius filled a U-shaped tube with a sample and buffer and then applied charge to either end of the tube. Based on the charge of the biomolecules, they would move towards the anode (positive electrode) or cathode (negative electrode). To visualize the separation, Tiselius looked for a change in the refractive index – the speed that light could pass through the solution – at different points in the tube.

Using Tiselius’ work as a starting point, researchers experimented with different matrices to further separate biomolecules into discrete bands, or zones. Researchers experimented with paper, starch, and other matrices before settling on the use of agarose to separate DNA fragments and other biomolecules. Today, electrophoresis is one of the most common biotechnology techniques used in the research laboratory.

Edvotek at Home

"Edvotek at Home" is a set of resources to teach the basics of Edvotek’s labs through worksheets and presentations. While we believe in the importance of hands-on learning, these free online learning tools are ideal if you can not perform the hands-on experiments in class. Each set includes a student sheet, an instructor’s guide, and an accompanying powerpoint presentation and results sheet. This resource is provided in a downloadable zipped folder below.

Restriction Enzyme Analysis of DNA - This experiment is designed to develop an understanding of restriction enzyme digestion and separation of DNA fragments using agarose gel electrophoresis. Students will critically read the introductory text and answer questions about the experiment as they go through the protocol. At the end of the activity, students will have experience analyzing observed results and be capable of transforming the abstract concepts of restriction digestion and electrophoresis into an enhanced scientific understanding.

Lesson Plans

Left at the Scene of the Crime! An Introduction to Forensic Science - In this Forensic Science Lesson, students explore many different aspects of a crime scene investigation. First, students utilize critical reading skills through the interpretation of a "Police Report." Next, students will analyze simulated crime scene and suspect samples using the Kastle-Meyer test, Blood Group Typing, and Agarose Gel Electrophoresis. the results will be presented as a Forensic Science report in the "court of law." After performing this investigation, your students will have experience with data collection, critical analysis of results and scientific inquiry. This will help them to transform advanced topics in genetics and biotechnology into a concrete scientific understanding.

Presentations

These short courses couple theory with active experimentation to help you update your skills and knowledge in various areas of biotechnology.

Introducing Your Students to Gene Editing with CRISPR - The development of CRISPR as a gene editing tool is one ofthe most exciting biotechnology breakthroughs of the pastdecade. Now you can learn how to incorporate this amazingtechnology into your classroom. We’ll review the biology behind CRISPR-Cas technology and examine the use of genetherapy to treat a patient suffering from cystic fibrosis. You’ll design guide RNAs to target a mutation in an essential gene,and then use electrophoresis to analyze preprepared DNA after CRISPR treatment.

Left at the Scene of the Crime: High School Forensics - Help! The principal has been attacked in the art room! Your students become forensic scientists as they walk into a crime scene. Inspect the location of the crime using blood spatter analysis and then catch the criminal with DNA fingerprinting. This exciting workshop will include ways to incorporate biotechnology and gel electrophoresis into your classroom.

Sweet Science: Exploring Complex Mixtures with Biotechnology - Explore biotechnology with this fun and interactive workshop. Unlock the color of candies by extracting their food dyes and separating them using agarose gel electrophoresis. We’ll also learn how to separate complex color combinations using TLC paper chromatography. By separating out the colors, students will learn about complicated mixtures, charges on molecules, and incorporating science into their everyday lives.

Martian Genetics: A DNA and Electrophoresis Exploration - Explore genetics with our “out of this world” workshop! Imagine being the first scientist to explore Mars and discovering extraterrestrials. How would you use biotechnology to learn about the Martians? Learn how to explore the relationship between genotype and phenotype and how to see DNA in your middle school classroom. This workshop will cover both DNA extraction using spooling and the separation of simulated DNA fragments using electrophoresis.

Cancer Investigators: Medical Diagnostics in Your Classroom - Cancer contributes to almost one in every four deaths in the United States. Fortunately, innovations in biomedical research have improved our understanding of the differences between normal and cancer cells. In this hands-on workshop, participants use microscopy and electrophoresis to explore the hallmarks of cancer.

Additional Resources

Edvotek® YouTube Live Stream - Biotech Basics: Fundamentals of Electrophoresis - Watch as Dr. Danielle Snowflack discusses the principles of agarose gel electrophoresis using brightly-colored dyes. The entire process, from loading and running the gel to analyzing the results, are covered in this informational session.


Instructional Videos - For the visual learner:
Troubleshooting Guide - Frequently asked questions, common mistakes, and how to course correct your experiment: