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Difference Between Agarose and Sepharose

Agarose Vs Sepharose

Agarose and sepharose are two very technical terms that you don’t hear that often. These words seem to come out straight from the lab. In fact, they really do! But telling the differences between the two isn’t that difficult most especially if you come to know what these items really are.

Are you familiar with a gel? For sure you are. Nevertheless, the purest agarose is in the form of a powder. It practically does not dissolve in water unless it is brought to a boil. The result is a chemical reaction that brings about to polymerization. In layman’s term this is the same as gelling or when some sugar polymers (particles) stick strongly to each other to form a sort of firm (semi-solid) material. This is how Jello or gels are made. And the firmness of the Jello will be determined by the agarose content being poured. Obviously, the more agarose material added to boiling water the harder the gel-like material becomes.

Agarose is actually a type of sugar molecule chain that is derived from ordinary seaweeds. Dubbed as a secret ingredient with many commercial and culinary uses, agarose has been manufactured with many variations or grades that are processed rigorously making most of these materials quite pricey. It is said that a 500g bottle of agarose can cost as much as $200.

In culinary arts, agarose is used to make many oriental dishes like Mizuyokan of Japan and Gulaman in the Philippines. Nevertheless, it is popularly used in the scientific field as the medium to culture certain cells and bacteria to spot out diseases like the way red agar is used on Petri dishes and also in many gel electrophoresis techniques. It is so popular in lab processes because of its porous nature which makes it an ideal medium in monitoring the mobility of certain microorganisms.

Sepharose is also another polymer like agarose but slightly differs because it is more beaded in form. Because of such, many scientists say that sepharose is a better polymer when used in affinity work as compared to agarose. But many would come to contest to such claim because the two are said to be functionally equivalent.

Sepharose has actually been trademarked by Amersham Biosciences (GE Healthcare) and is widely used for developing innovations related to healthcare. Conversely, agarose is a rather more generic term that pertains to a mixture of polysaccharides (otherwise known as agar). Out of the two types of polysaccharides in the mixture (neutral and the charged ones), the latter is removed in sepharose through a unique purification process.

1. Pure agarose is powdered form while sepharose is more beaded in structure.
2. Agarose is a more generic term referring to a type of polysaccharide polymer while sepharose is a trademarked term by GE Healthcare.
3. Agarose has more charged polysaccharides compared to sepharose.


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  • 1 Comment

    1. Agarose does NOT polymerise.

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