Electrophoresis has played an important role in our understanding of molecular biology throughout the years of this young field of science. In the 1970s refinement of electrophoretic techniques made it possible to map the structure and sequence of DNA. Danna and Nathens5 established the length of fragments of SV40 DNA which had been produced by the new restriction endonuclease derived from Hemophilus Influenzae.The techniques also made it possible to illustrate the difference in migration of the linear and circular DNA of various different phages.
Electrophoresis used in this field have also aided our understanding of gene technology and it is easy to say that without these tools along with the use of allied techniques such as blotting science would not of been able to start the biggest investigations to date the mapping of the human genome1.With the introduction of capillary electrophoresis it has made it possible to separate much smaller proteins and has advanced our knowledge in the structure and sequence of our DNA and has also been a successful tool in the field of gene technology by giving us the understanding of how the genes work and can be manipulated. The importance of chromosomal, nucleic acids electrophoresis is that it has enabled us to determine their sequence and understand the biological variability among all life forms, such as animals, humans, micro organisms and plants.
Key Roles of Electrophoresis in Understanding the Diagnosis of Disease. Increased attentions have been focused towards proteins and their roles in diseases and their uses in the diagnosis of a disease. For example the techniques of electrophoresis have advanced our knowledge in the aetiology and pathology of HIV and its development to AIDS. As a result it has enabled us to understand the treatment of such diseases1. The developments of these techniques and others such as immuno-electrophoresis have shown great importance to studies in humans for the effects of drugs and chemicals enabling us to treat the disease with the right combination of drugs and therapy.Electrophoresis has also played a key role in the fight against cancer as we are able to cure some forms of the disease as we now understand its genetic code we are able to treat it more successfully. The techniques and the knowledge we have gained in the benefit of disease diagnosis due to electrophoresis have supplied us with a standard and by comparing patients results with the known standard enables us to diagnose rapidly.
In research proteomics electrophoresis has been a successful piece of armoury to investigators in the investigation of protein expression changes that occur in a biological system, such as during disease development and progression, stress or drug exposure, or during normal cell and tissue development. This has provided important information on the pathways involved in these processes and can lead to the identification of new protein markers for the diagnosis or the treatment of diseases due to changing protein expression patterns. By performing a haemoglobin electrophoresis it has now made it possible to diagnose sickle cell disease in newborns as well as a fully grown adult6. Although solubility testing methods identify sickle haemoglobin, these tests are not as accurate as an electrophoresis test as they miss haemoglobin C and other genetic variants which would be seen in electrophoresis.Conclusion.Electrophoretic methods and techniques are now the most widely utilised analytical separations in molecular biology and disease diagnosis.
This is due to its accuracy and benefits we get from the knowledge we obtain as of these methods. I have shown here a summary of the major developments in the history of electrophoresis, from its pioneering days of Arne Wilhelm Kaurin Tiselius and his theory of moving boundary electrophoresis through out the decades to present day and the development of capillary electrophoresis.I have pointed out the key roles and discoveries made in molecular biology and I have also presented a couple of examples on how these techniques have aided us in the understanding disease and diagnosis.
Although methods of today are increasingly diversified and are used in many different fields of science with the right application electrophoresis will further mankind’s understanding and give a greater insight into different species genetics and further diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as AIDS and cancers. It will also provide us with the capability of the mapping of the human genome completely and with such knowledge will enable us to further investigate and possibly cure genetic disorders and terminal illnesses.References.1. Olof Vesterberg.
1989. History of Electrophoretic Methods. Journal of Chromatography, 480, 3-19.2. Pier Giorgio Righetti. 2005. Electrophoresis: The March of Pennies, the March of Dimes.
Journal of Chromatography A, 1079, 24-40.3. Nobel winners.com.
Arne Wilhelm Kaurin Tiselius. Available: http://www.nobel-winners.com/Chemistry/arne_wilhelm_kaurin_tiselius.html , last accessed 15/02/2006.