How Does a Bioanalyzer Work & What Is It Used For?

How Does a Bioanalyzer Work & What Is It Used For?

The Bioanalyzer is an advanced laboratory instrument that analyzes biomolecules such as nucleic acids, proteins, and cells. It is part of the Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer system. This cutting-edge, microfluidics-based device employs electrophoresis to provide precise and rapid quantitative data, automating and streamlining the analysis process.

The Bioanalyzer has become an indispensable tool in various disciplines, aiding researchers and clinicians in their investigations and diagnostics and enabling scientists to gain deep insights into biological samples with high accuracy and efficiency.

In research, Bioanalyzers facilitate the characterization of DNA, RNA, and proteins, supporting various workflows, and can be essential in clinical diagnostics, enabling the detection of genetic mutations, protein biomarkers, and cellular characteristics, contributing to disease diagnosis and treatment advancements.

The Bioanalyzer's wide-ranging capabilities have helped revolutionize biomedical research, molecular biology, and personalized medicine, putting it in a crucial role in modern research and diagnostics.

This post will offer an in-depth review of the Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer, including the following:

  • An explanation of the instrumentation and analytical process
  • A review of the diverse applications in biomolecular analysis and other fields
  • A comparison with the TapeStation system and other electrophoresis equipment
  • Guidance on whether the Bioanalyzer can help your research
  • Insights into some emerging trends and potential advancements in the field
Need new or refurbished lab equipment? Excedr leases.

See our equipment list and browse a sample selection of what we can source. Or, if you’re ready, request an estimate.

Bioanalyzer System Instrumentation & Analysis

The 2100 Bioanalyzer system, manufactured by Agilent, comprises a Bioanalyzer instrument, data processing software, reagents, and a microfluidic chip tailored for DNA, RNA, or protein analysis. It offers a highly precise analytical evaluation of various sample types, with key benefits that include high sensitivity, minimal sample consumption, application flexibility, and the generation of high-quality data.

The system’s microfluidics-based automated electrophoresis offers several advantages over traditional gel electrophoresis. Notably, it significantly reduces sample and reagent consumption, with just 1 µL needed for nucleic acids and 4 µL for proteins. Additionally, the analysis time is notably faster, and hands-on activities during sample preparation and data analysis are minimized, streamlining overall workflow efficiency.

The system is particularly suitable for researchers with low throughput needs, accommodating 10-12 samples. It is a versatile instrument for nucleic acids and protein electrophoresis analysis, providing a reliable and objective assessment of DNA, RNA, and proteins' sizing, quantitation, integrity, and purity.

The digital data generated by the Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer system is provided promptly and offers comprehensive insights into the sample quality. It enables researchers to assess DNA, RNA, and protein characteristics with minimal sample volumes, ensuring cost-effectiveness and reduced waste. Furthermore, the data can be exported in various formats, facilitating seamless integration with different analysis tools and workflows.

Bioanalyzer Applications

The Bioanalyzer caters to various applications, including next-generation sequencing (NGS), gene expression, biopharmaceutical, and genome editing workflows, delivering exact analytical evaluation of diverse sample types. Let’s review some of these applications in greater detail.

Nucleic Acid Analysis (DNA/RNA)

The Bioanalyzer is vital in analyzing nucleic acids, including DNA and RNA. The Bioanalyzer enables researchers to assess DNA fragment size and integrity for DNA analysis, which is crucial in applications such as DNA sequencing, PCR product analysis, and genotyping. By accurately quantifying DNA, the Bioanalyzer aids in determining the quality and concentration of DNA samples, providing valuable insights for downstream applications.

In the case of RNA analysis, the Bioanalyzer allows for examining RNA integrity and quantification. This is particularly important in gene expression studies, RNA sequencing, and microarray experiments. The system’s ability to detect and quantify small RNA species, such as microRNAs, is significant in understanding gene regulation and RNA-based therapeutics.

Protein Analysis & Quantification

The Bioanalyzer is also widely used for protein analysis and quantification. By accurately determining protein size and concentration, researchers can assess protein purity and confirm the success of protein purification processes. Additionally, the Bioanalyzer facilitates the detection of protein contaminants or degradation products, ensuring high-quality protein samples for further downstream applications.

Protein quantification is essential in various research areas, such as proteomics, biopharmaceutical development, and structural biology. The Bioanalyzer's precise and rapid quantification capability enhances efficiency. It reduces the need for time-consuming and labor-intensive traditional protein quantification methods.

Cell Viability & Apoptosis Assays

In cell biology and drug discovery research, assessing cell viability and apoptosis is crucial to understanding cellular health and response to various treatments. The Bioanalyzer, in conjunction with specific fluorescent dyes, allows researchers to perform cell viability and apoptosis assays accurately and efficiently.

By measuring cell viability, researchers can determine the number of live cells in a sample and assess the impact of experimental conditions or treatments on cell survival. Apoptosis assays enable the detection of programmed cell death, providing insights into cellular responses to stimuli or drug candidates.

The microfluidics-based, electrophoresis on-a-chip analysis of cell viability and apoptosis delivers high-throughput data, allowing researchers to study complex cell populations and draw meaningful conclusions from their experimental results.

Tapestation System & Other Automated Electrophoresis Equipment Comparisons

Agilent offers a range of advanced automated electrophoresis equipment, each catering to specific applications and research needs. Among the Agilent automated electrophoresis equipment, the Agilent Bioanalyzer System stands out as an established tool for sample quality control of biomolecules. Let's compare the Bioanalyzer with other notable instruments in the company’s portfolio.

TapeStation Systems

The Agilent 4150 and 4200 TapeStation systems present a walk-away solution for sample processing, boasting operational simplicity and high application flexibility. These systems offer fast analysis time and constant cost per sample, making them suitable for routine quality control and various research applications. Ready-to-use ScreenTape devices simplify operation, requiring minimal hands-on time during sample preparation and data analysis.

While these systems offer constant cost per sample and high application flexibility, the Agilent Bioanalyzer System stands out with its higher sensitivity, allowing researchers to detect and quantify biomolecules with even greater precision. The Bioanalyzer's minimal sample consumption and application flexibility make it a versatile and cost-effective choice for various research workflows.

Fragment Analyzer Systems

Agilent Fragment Analyzer systems excel in nucleic acid quality control, specifically for NGS libraries, cell-free DNA (cfDNA), and RNA QC. With automated parallel capillary electrophoresis, these systems offer efficient and accurate measurement through simple sample preparation and intuitive analysis software. The broad range of DNA and RNA kits allows seamless switching between applications and the unattended operation streamlines workflows.

However, the Fragment Analyzer may have more limited application flexibility than the Agilent Bioanalyzer System. The Bioanalyzer’s broad range of applications, including gene expression and gene editing research, offers researchers greater versatility in biomolecule analysis.

Femto Pulse System

The Agilent Femto Pulse system is a specialized instrument that separates high-molecular-weight (HMW) DNA using a pulsed-field power supply. It stands out with its remarkable sensitivity, detecting femtogram quantities of nucleic acids for low-input sample types. 

Compared to agarose pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), the Femto Pulse system is 1000 times more sensitive and ten times faster, offering significant fragment separation and powerful analysis capabilities.

While it offers powerful capabilities for large fragment separation, the Agilent Bioanalyzer System provides a more established and widely used solution for various sample types, including proteins and cells. The Bioanalyzer’s proven performance in multiple research areas and high-quality data generation make it a favored choice for many life science researchers.

ZAG DNA Analyzer System

The Agilent ZAG DNA Analyzer system is an ideal solution for relieving bottlenecks in high-throughput DNA fragment analysis workflows. With parallel capillary electrophoresis, this system processes thousands of DNA fragment samples daily, eliminating the limitations associated with agarose gel usage. It boasts high throughput, a broad sizing range, fast separation time, and increased separation resolution, making it a valuable asset for various DNA fragment analyses.

While it boasts high throughput and fast separation time, the Agilent Bioanalyzer System offers researchers the added advantage of minimal sample consumption. This feature is especially beneficial for studies with limited or precious samples, making the Bioanalyzer a preferred option for researchers who value resource efficiency without compromising data quality.

OligoPro II System

The Agilent OligoPro II system is a specialized solution within the automated electrophoresis portfolio, specifically designed for high-resolution separations and direct detection of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) and single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) oligonucleotides. This system offers high-throughput UV absorption oligonucleotide purity assessment. It supports a broad range of applications with its n-1 resolution through 60 nt. Moreover, the system’s 12, 24, or 96 capillary arrays provide scalability for various throughput needs.

However, the Agilent Bioanalyzer System stands as the go-to instrument for researchers seeking a more comprehensive solution for nucleic acid and protein analysis. With its high sensitivity, a wide range of applications, and generation of high-quality data, the Bioanalyzer offers researchers a versatile and efficient tool for biomolecular analysis.

Selecting the Right Instrument for Your Needs

Choosing the appropriate automated electrophoresis instrument for your research needs is essential to ensure accurate and efficient biomolecule analysis. Several key factors should be considered when making this decision.

  • Sample types: Evaluate the samples you will analyze in your research. Different instruments may excel in specific sample types, such as DNA, RNA, proteins, or cells. Some instruments, like the Agilent Fragment Analyzer Systems, are tailored for nucleic acid quality control, while others, like the Agilent Bioanalyzer System, offer versatile applications in nucleic acid and protein analysis.
  • Throughput requirements: Consider the volume of samples you plan to process daily or weekly. Instruments like the Agilent ZAG DNA Analyzer System are designed for high-throughput DNA fragment analysis, making them ideal for laboratories with large sample volumes. In contrast, the Agilent Bioanalyzer System may be more suitable for moderately low throughput needs (10-12 samples), offering greater flexibility and ease of use for smaller-scale experiments.
  • Application flexibility: Determine the breadth of applications you need for your research. Some instruments, like the Agilent TapeStation Systems, offer various applications. In contrast, others may be specialized for specific analyses. Opting for a versatile system like the Agilent Bioanalyzer System ensures that your instrument can cater to various research projects and accommodate future experimental demands.
  • Resource efficiency: Assess the instrument’s resource consumption, including sample and reagent usage. Instruments like the Agilent Femto Pulse System may excel in sensitivity and rapid analysis. Still, it is crucial to consider the cost-effectiveness and waste reduction of higher sensitivity systems for your specific research requirements.
  • Budget considerations: Analyze your budget constraints and determine the affordability of each instrument. While specific instruments may offer advanced features, they come at a higher cost. Balancing instrument capabilities and budget allocation is essential to ensure optimal value for your research investment.
  • User-friendly operation: Ease of use and automation capabilities are crucial factors in enhancing laboratory efficiency. Look for instruments with intuitive software interfaces, automated data processing, and minimal hands-on time during sample preparation and analysis, such as the Agilent TapeStation Systems and Agilent Fragment Analyzer Systems.
  • Data quality and precision: Ultimately, the accuracy and reliability of data generated by the instrument are of utmost importance. Consider the instrument’s performance, sensitivity, and data quality. The Agilent Bioanalyzer System, with its established reputation for precise analytical evaluation, ensures researchers obtain reliable results for their biomolecule analysis.

By carefully evaluating these factors and aligning them with your specific research goals and experimental requirements, you can make an informed decision and select the right automated electrophoresis instrument to accelerate your discoveries and drive impactful breakthroughs in your research endeavors.

Emerging Trends & Advancements

Exciting emerging trends and potential innovations are shaping the future of automated electrophoresis instrumentation, paving the way for enhanced performance and novel applications. Let’s look at some of the trends and potential innovations we’ve seen happening in biomolecular analysis over the past few years.

Single-Cell Analysis

One of the most promising Bioanalyzer trends is the growing focus on single-cell analysis. Researchers are increasingly interested in unraveling the complexities of individual cells to understand cellular heterogeneity and function better. Advancements in flow cytometry-based Bioanalyzers, such as the Agilent Bioanalyzer System, enable high-throughput single-cell analysis, driving discoveries in immunology, cancer research, and regenerative medicine.

Multi-Omics Integration

As researchers seek a more comprehensive understanding of biological systems, multi-omics data integration is gaining prominence. Bioanalyzers are evolving to accommodate this trend, enabling simultaneous analysis of biomolecules like DNA, RNA, and proteins. This integration empowers researchers to gain deeper insights into how these biomolecules interact and regulate biological processes, opening doors to precision medicine and personalized therapies.

Lab-on-a-Chip Technology

Miniaturization and microfluidic innovations are revolutionizing Bioanalyzers. Lab-on-a-chip technology allows for rapid, precise, and cost-effective biomolecule analysis with reduced sample and reagent consumption. These advancements in the Agilent TapeStation and Fragment Analyzer Systems offer researchers greater experimental efficiency and resource conservation.

Real-Time Analysis

Down the road, Bioanalyzers might incorporate real-time analysis capabilities, allowing researchers to monitor dynamic changes in biomolecule interactions or cellular responses over time. Real-time analysis can provide deeper insights into biological kinetics, signaling pathways, and drug-target interactions, significantly advancing our understanding of complex biological processes.

Automation & AI Integration

Continued advancements in automation and artificial intelligence (AI) could lead to more intelligent and autonomous Bioanalyzers. These systems may offer automated experimental design, data analysis, and decision-making capabilities, streamlining research workflows and reducing human errors, making them even more user-friendly and efficient.

Label-Free Detection

Label-free detection techniques could eliminate the need for fluorescent labels or dyes, simplifying sample preparation and reducing potential artifacts. Label-free Bioanalyzers might use innovative optical or electrical sensing methods to directly detect biomolecules, enhancing sensitivity and versatility in research applications.

Portable & Point-of-Care Devices

Advancements in miniaturization could lead to portable Bioanalyzers used in the field or at the point of care. These mobile devices would facilitate on-site analysis, enabling rapid diagnostics and monitoring of biomolecules in various environments, such as remote areas or clinical settings.

The Power of the Bioanalyzer in Modern Research & Diagnostics

The Agilent Bioanalyzer System is a cutting-edge automated electrophoresis solution, revolutionizing biomolecular analysis in modern research and diagnostics. With its high sensitivity, minimal sample consumption, and application flexibility, the Bioanalyzer is crucial in assessing nucleic acids, proteins, and cell viability with unmatched precision.

In nucleic acid analysis, the Bioanalyzer allows researchers to visualize DNA and RNA fragments, assess sample quality, and quantify biomolecules. Its wide range of applications, including gene expression and gene editing research, ensures versatility for various research projects.

For protein analysis and quantification, the Bioanalyzer's accurate determination of protein size and concentration ensures the success of protein purification processes and enhances biopharmaceutical development.

Additionally, the Bioanalyzer enables researchers to conduct cell viability and apoptosis assays, shedding light on cellular health and responses to treatments, thus aiding cancer research, drug discovery, and stem cell studies.

Significantly, the Bioanalyzer's high-quality data generation and ease of use empower researchers to make breakthrough discoveries with confidence and efficiency. It accelerates scientific advancements, optimizes experimental workflows, and enhances our understanding of biological processes and disease mechanisms.

As researchers embark on their journeys of scientific exploration, it's important to consider the Bioanalyzer's capabilities to improve their research, leading to more definitive success. Its precise analysis and reliable results offer a solid foundation for groundbreaking discoveries, opening doors to novel treatments, diagnostic tools, and a deeper understanding of the complexities of life.

Lease Analytical Equipment with Excedr

For laboratories seeking access to advanced automated electrophoresis equipment, leasing the Bioanalyzer and other instruments is an excellent option, as acquiring advanced automated electrophoresis equipment can often pose significant financial challenges.

Purchasing such high-end instruments requires a substantial upfront investment, which can strain budgets and limit resources for other critical aspects of research and business operations.

Leasing provides an excellent option for researchers to access cutting-edge technology without the burden of large capital investment. Instead of committing substantial funds to purchase the equipment outright, leasing allows researchers to pay a manageable monthly fee for the duration of the lease agreement. This significantly reduces upfront costs and provides flexibility and financial breathing room to allocate resources strategically.

Researchers can conserve cash for other crucial aspects of their research and business operations by reducing upfront costs and accessing expensive equipment without large capital investments. Contact us today to lease a Bioanalyzer or other automated electrophoresis equipment.