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How DNA Visualization Works & How We Save You Time & Money

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Transilluminator illustration

Transilluminators, a standard piece of laboratory equipment, are specifically designed to visualize nucleic acids after they have undergone gel electrophoresis.

General lab equipment

By emitting high levels of ultraviolet light (UV) or high-intensity LED light, DNA, RNA, and macromolecules like protein are made visible. Gels that have been stained can be directly placed onto the device, and in the case of UV, the wavelength can be adjusted to fit your specific application needs.

Visualizing nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA, as well as macromolecules that include protein, is an important process in many life sciences, microbiology, and biotechnology laboratories.

Before visualization can occur, DNA must be separated, identified, or purified using a common method known as gel electrophoresis. The electrophoretic migration rate of DNA through the agarose gel can depend on the weight of the sample, as well as the concentration of gel and strength of the electric field.

This technique forms bands of DNA through separation. During or directly after the process is completed, the gel medium is stained using a fluorescent dye. This stain binds to nucleic acids, so as to mark the target DNA, RNA, or protein.

Once the gel is stained, it is placed under a light source that can fluoresce or excite the stain, making the sample visible. In many cases, the light source used is UV light. Longwave UV light has been used to cause substances to glow or fluoresce under the correct conditions due to its reactivity with organic molecules.

Transilluminator Types, Stains, & Price

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The key application of a transilluminator is to illuminate electrophoresed agarose or polyacrylamide gels that have been stained using a fluorescent dye. In most cases, the dye is excited using ultraviolet light because of its ability to fluoresce.

Because UV radiation can be harmful, there are some alternatives available worth considering such as LED light bulbs.

UV Transilluminator

Ethidium bromide is commonly introduced into the sample because of its fluorescent nature and its ability to intercalate into the DNA based on its unique structure. As the dye fluoresces, the DNA becomes visible.

A transilluminator comes equipped with a positionable blocking window to protect from direct exposure to ultraviolet light, as well as a filter to reduce the amount of visible light inside the housing. Simple to use and designed for efficiency, these devices provide an excellent excitation light source.

Blue Light Transilluminator

Operating using high-intensity blue LED light bulbs, these devices are an alternative to UV lightboxes. Light from inside the blue light transilluminator passes through a blue filter, producing an intense signal that then passes through an amber filter, providing a large viewing surface to view agarose gel containing stained DNA bands.

The LED bulbs do not pose a health risk and provide the same level of visibility as ultraviolet light. While ultraviolet radiation may possibly sunburn or cross-link your samples without the proper care, LED bulbs ensure quality images for publication or analysis without the possible risk of damage.

Moreover, the spectrum light of LED transilluminators can effectively excite many of the common nucleic acid stains used for ultraviolet radiation. Furthermore, LED bulbs have a longer life span compared to UV bulbs.

Gel Stains

It is worth considering which kind of dye you are using in gel electrophoresis, because this may affect your observations when using a transilluminator. A few common dyes for staining and visualizing DNA include:

  • Ethidium Bromide: This is the most commonly known dye for visualizing DNA. Used to stain the gel after electrophoresis, this dye can also be used in the gel mixture and buffer. This intercalating agent is highly useful due to its ability to interlock with DNA and its fluorescent qualities.
  • SYBR Gold: More sensitive than ethidium bromide, this stain can be used on single- or double-stranded DNA. It can also be used to stain RNA. Once it has paired with a nucleic acid, the dye exhibits high levels of fluorescence. This is one of the first stains created as an alternative to ethidium bromide.
  • SYBR Safe: As the name implies, SYBR safe was designed to be a safe alternative to ethidium bromide, as well as other SYBR stains. There is no acute toxicity found in this dye, so it is not considered a hazardous waste material. It can be used with blue LED transilluminators, causing less damage to DNA being visualized.
  • SYBR Green: This is a cyanine dye, used for a variety of fluorescence detection. It is composed of molecules containing polymethine bridges between two nitrogen atoms with a delocalized charge. Its ability to bind with DNA bands makes SYBR green highly useful in staining electrophoresed gels, however, because it is considered a mutagen, it should also be handled with care. EVA Green: This dye has been shown to have very low toxicity and mutagenicity, and inhibits PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to a lesser extent than other dyes, making it useful for any real-time PCR applications.

Transilluminator & Gel Imaging Leases to Fit Every Need

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Founder-Friendly Leases

Our lease agreements are founder-friendly and flexible, helping you preserve working capital, strengthen the cash flow of your business, and keep business credit lines open for expansions, staffing, and other crucial operational expenses and business development opportunities.

2-5 Year Lease Lengths

Leases range from 2 to 5 years. Length will depend on several factors, including how long you want to use the equipment, equipment type, and your company’s financial position. These are standard factors leasing companies consider and help us tailor a lease agreement to fit your needs.

Your Choice of Manufacturer

We don’t carry an inventory. This means you’re not limited to a specific set of manufacturers. Instead, you can pick the equipment that aligns with your business goals and preferences. We’ll work with the manufacturer of your choice to get the equipment in your facility as quickly as possible.

Maintenance & Repair Coverage

Bundle preventive maintenance and repair coverage with your lease agreement. You can spread those payments over time. Easily maintain your equipment, minimize the chances something will break down, repair instrumentation quickly, and simplify your payment processes.

End-of-Lease Options

At the end of your lease, you have multiple options. You can either renew the lease at a significantly lower price, purchase the machine outright based on the fair market value of the original pricing, or call it a day and we’ll come the pick up the equipment for you free of charge.

No Loan-Like Terms

Our leases do not include loan-like terms, which can be restrictive or harmful in certain situations. We do not require debt covenants, IP pledges, collateral,  or equity participation. Our goal is to maximize your flexibility. When you lease with us, you’re collaborating with a true business partner.

In-House Underwriting Process

Our underwriting is done in-house. You can expect quicker turnaround, allowing you respond to your equipment needs as they arise. We require less documentation than traditional lenders and financiers and can get the equipment you need in operation more quickly.

Popular Transilluminator Manufacturers

Analytik Jena
Benchmark Scientific
Bio-Rad
Cleaver Scientific
Cole Parmer
Gel Company
Maestro Gen
Thermo Fisher Scientific