Advanced Gel-Imaging Systems

Over the past decade, the process of visualizing and analyzing electrophoresis gels has been significantly improved, to say the least, by advancements in imaging/documentation systems and analysis software. These advanced gel-imaging systems are instrumental in comparative proteomics and biomarker discovery. Gel-imaging systems take pictures of two-dimensional (2D) electrophoresis gels and store the digital image, which can be later processed and analyzed with specialized software programs. However, not all image documentation systems are built the same. Depending on a researcher’s electrophoresis requirements, one might use laser-based scanners or CCD-based imaging systems. Laser-based scanners offer the most advanced imaging capabilities with robust detection modes for a high degree of sensitivity and resolution. These systems are ideal for capturing low-abundance targets, as in biomarker discovery. One of the most advanced systems on the market is GE Healthcare’s Typhoon variable mode imager, a versatile platform that handles gel sandwiches, agarose and polyacrylamide gels, membranes, microplates and microarrays. It features an automated four-color fluorescence-scanning capability that allows multiplexing of multiple targets in the same sample, which is particularly useful in high-throughput applications. CCD-based imagers are less expensive, but tend not to deliver the same level of sensitivity as laser-based systems. However, some of the newly introduced CCD systems provide images similar in quality to laser-based systems through the use of high-resolution, 16-bit cooled CCD cameras. High-end CCD-based imaging systems are typically used for quantitative chemiluminescence. Alpha Innotech recently introduced the FluorChem Q, which can be used for both fluorescent and chemiluminescence western blots. The system includes three standard epi-illumination channels for full compatibility with Cy dyes and other Western kits. The FluorChem Q is equipped with a high-resolution camera and fast-lens technology that captures images of chemiluminescent Westerns at the same speed as film, but with better linear dynamic range. Most gel-imaging vendors offer a range of systems to address different applications, budgets and performance parameters. Carestream Health (formerly Kodak) offers the Gel Logic Imaging systems from the entry-level Gel Logic 100 system for colorimetric blots, to the more advanced 2200 imaging system that offers high sensitivity imaging of chemilumensent western blots and low-light fluorescence. While the overall growth for the electrophoresis market is not rapid, the demand for advanced gel imaging systems is an area of solid prospects at 7%–10% growth annually. This demand is mainly fueled by replacements or system upgrades, with faster growth in Asia. Advanced Gel Imaging Systems at a Glance: Leading Suppliers • Caresteam Health • Fujifilm • GE Healthcare Largest Markets • Academia • Biotech • Government Instrument Cost • $25,000–$70,000

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