Pros and Cons of Different Types of Gel Transilluminators

In scientific experimentation, it is crucial to have adequate laboratory instrumentation. An essential device for visualization of results in gel electrophoresis experiments is the transilluminator.

The choice of transilluminator will depend on the particular needs of each experiment. While UV light equipment is still very popular, blue and white light alternatives present a safe and versatile option for a variety of experiments. The inclusion of these devices in any laboratory will increase the efficiency of experimental work.

Ultraviolet (UV) transilluminators

UV transilluminators are one of the most commonly used transilluminators in laboratories around the world. They are ideal for the visualization of nucleic acids and proteins stained with fluorescent dyes; however, their use has advantages and disadvantages. The pros of the UV light transilluminator include its high sensitivity, allowing detection of a low concentration of molecules of interest. In addition, many commonly used dyes for staining gels are efficiently excited by UV light.

On the other hand, working with UV light can pose risks to eye and skin health if proper precautions are not taken. In addition, UV light can cause damage to DNA, making DNA recovery more difficult, as the formation of pyrimidine dimers may occur.

Blue light transilluminators

In recent years, transilluminators using blue light have gained popularity. They have certain advantages over UV light transilluminators, such as being less harmful to the operator’s health and causing less damage to DNA. The blue light transilluminator generally works with gels dyed with DNA-safe dyes, offering a safer working environment. Another advantage is its compatibility with state-of-the-art gel readers and cameras.

However, blue light transilluminators may have slightly lower sensitivity than UV light transilluminators. This can make it difficult to detect small amounts of product. In addition, the choice of dye to use may be limited by the excitation wavelength of the equipment.

White light transilluminators

White light transilluminators are the most suitable choice for visualization of Coomassie-stained protein gels. Among the advantages is their ability to allow observation of the gel without the need for a special filter, which facilitates their use.

On the other hand, its sensitivity is the lowest of all, limiting its use to samples with high protein concentration. Also, Coomassie does not completely penetrate the gel, making it difficult to visualize the innermost bands.

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