Saying Goodbye to Ethidium Bromide

If you have ever run an agarose gel electrophoresis experiment there are good odds that you have handled, or at least heard about, Ethidium Bromide. As the most commonly used DNA and RNA stain, Ethidium Bromide has been invaluable to researchers for decades. When added to molten agarose, or used as a stain once the experiment has be run, Ethidium Bromide can detect DNA as low at 0.5 ng per band! Unfortunately, Ethidium Bromide is also a potent mutagen, requiring care during use.

The chemical structure of Ethidium Bromide.

For years, Edvotek has offered a classroom-friendly version through our InstaStain Ethidium Bromide sheets, which contain minute quantities of the stain to minimize student contact and simplify disposal. However, over the past year we have been steadily transitioning our advanced DNA experiments away from InstaStain and substituting a safer and more convenient alternative, SYBR™ Safe DNA stain. Today, we are happy to announce that we are completing the transition away from the InstaStain Ethidium Bromide stain and converting the final remaining experiments.

Comparing SYBR™ Safe and Ethidium Bromide

There are many similarities between SYBR™ Safe DNA Stain and Ethidium Bromide. Both stains are shelf stable and can be added to molten agarose before running your experiment or used once the run has completed to visualize your DNA samples (to see our recommended staining protocols check out the resources available on our website or our SYBR Safe tutorial video). As the DNA migrates through the gel it will bind to stain molecules, allowing for visualization in real time or immediately after the experiment completes.

After running the experiment the gels are transferred from the electrophoresis chamber and viewed on a specialized transilluminator. Both SYBR™ Safe and Ethidium Bromide are fluorescent DNA stains, which means that once excited by UV or blue light any stain that has bound to DNA will brightly fluoresce. Ethidium Bromide fluoresces best when exposed to UV light, while SYBR™ Safe can use either UV or blue light transilluminators.

What it means for your classroom

As Edvotek completes the transition to SYBR™ Safe stain there are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare to purchase or perform any of our advanced DNA experiments.

  1. Pay attention to the literature version – Follow the instructions included in the box and perishable components to ensure you are using the correct literature that matches your reagents.
  2. The experimental requirements have not changed – If you were already using Ethidium Bromide then your existing transilluminator will still work beautifully with SYBR™ Safe stain. Also, if you were planning to use FlashBlue stain then it will still be included in the kit; feel free to save the SYBR™ Safe stain for another day!
  3. Simple prep, faster results – The SYBR™ Safe stain is included as a 10,000X concentrate and needs to be diluted before use. Follow the step-by-step instructions in the teacher section to add it to the agarose gels and see the DNA bands immediately after running the experiment. No waiting, no destaining, just instant results!
  4. Seamless integration with the EDGE – The new EDGE electrophoresis system is designed to work with SYBR™ Safe stain to visualize DNA in real time.
  5. You can save your gels to view later – It’s easy to store SYBR™ Safe stained gels for up to a week. Follow the instructions here!

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