Types of Gel Documentation system

Gel doc system or gel imaging system used to measure and record nucleic acid and protein that are suspended in various types of media such as agarose, acrylamide, or cellulose. There are different types of gel documentation systems with different configurations used depending on various types of applications.


  • Monoclonal and polyclonal antibody binding affinities
  • Gel and blot imaging
  • Colony counting
  • Immunoassay
  • Multiplex Protein Detection
  • Post-Translational Modification Characterization
  • 2D Electrophoresis
  • Protein Quantitation

Types of Gel Doc Systems

There are different types of gel documentation systems available in the market. It is important to choose the right gel imaging system required by the laboratory. The requirement of different gel doc systems depends on application and detection methods.

Chemiluminescence Gel doc System

Western blotting is an important technique in life science in order to separate proteins based on their molecular weight. Chemiluminescence gel doc system is most popular for western blot detection method because of its high level of sensitivity. 

Chemiluminescent gel imaging systems are used in this technique to further optimize speed, sensitivity, signal stability, and ease of use. Combined techniques such as chemiluminescence, fluorescence, and bioluminescence produce automated image acquisition systems with enhanced flexibility. 

CCD/ Digital Gel Documentation System

Digital gel documentation or gel imagers are available to measure and record stained agarose and acrylamide gel on the high technology digital platform. Digital gel doc systems are easy to use, facilitate effective data storage, and accurate sample quantification. 

Ethidium bromide (UV), chemiluminescence, fluorescence, densitometric and visible light are various detectors that are available for quantitative analysis of nucleic acid and protein bands, dot blots, and microplates. 

Image acquisition is simplified with auto-exposure, and auto-focusing options of these instruments. Gel doc system or gel imaging system is compatible with PC using suitable software. 

Digital gel doc system allows you to manipulate images for presentation purposes and stored them at your convenience. It is important to choose the gel doc systems right fit for your laboratory-based on application, detection method, resolution, compactness, system flexibility, and cost. 

Autoradiography Gel Imaging System

The autoradiography gel imaging technique uses radioactive sources exposed to the sample. In vitro autoradiography methods involves the separation of cellular components such as DNA, RNA, proteins, or lipids labelled with suitable radioisotopes. This technique also helps in the study of protein modification and DNA/ RNA sequencing.

In vivo autoradiography technique uses radioisotopes with radioactive tracers and is administered to laboratory animals either orally or through injection. The distribution of radiation is evaluated in whole-body cryosections or thin tissue. 

This technique is commonly used in disease monitoring, metabolic studies, or new drug development experiments. The radioisotopes used in autoradiography are sulfur-35, hydrogen-3, carbon-14, 125-iodine, or phosphorus-32.

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Laser-based Gel Imagers or Gel Doc System

This type of gel documentation system offers the highest sensitivity, resolution, and linear dynamic range. It provides powerful image acquisition tools for gels and blots with proteins labeled or stained with fluorescent dyes such as SYPRO, Ruby, or Flamingo. 

These Gel imagers or gel doc systems can set up lasers with different wavelengths allowing single or multiplex fluorescence detection. Laser-based imagers allow selective detection of multiple fluorescence labels on blots and gels.

Phosphor Imagers

It is a laser-based system capable of imaging and storing phosphor screens. This type of imager forms a latent image when exposed to gamma and beta radiation. These phosphor imagers have a large dynamic range, highly sensitive and quantitative accuracy.

Considerations taken to select the best-fit DNA Gel Documentation System

Lab requirement

It is the most important consideration to choose the best gel documentation as per the requirement of the lab. Check with basic requirements like, whether you just need a documentation system to run protein gels and ethidium bromide? 

Use of fluorescence or chemiluminescence gels? Requirement of multi-channel imaging capabilities? Size of gels you need to document? This list of the basic requirement of your lab helps you in choosing the best fit gel documentation for your lab.


Generally UV light is used to visualize DNA gels which causes ethidium bromide-stained nucleic acids to fluorescence. But researchers use safer fluorescent dyes to reduce the risk of UV exposure and use alternative light sources such as blue light. 

If you are using chemiluminescence westerns then the gel documentation system with chemiluminescence is required. If protein gels stained with  Coomassie blue are used then a transilluminator is used.


As the budget is the most important consideration for all the lab setup. There are different types of gel documentation systems available in the market. It is important to understand your need for the gel documentation system. 

In accordance with that basic gel documentation system with good features is to be purchased. Additional features such as a high-resolution camera, top-end analysis software, stand-alone system, chemiluminescence or fluorescence, multi-channel imaging will add more to your budget.

Camera and Resolution

Most of the gel imaging systems have cameras with resolutions between 0.5 and 8 megapixels. Anything under the resolution of 2MP is considered to be an entry-level gel documentation system. Depending on your application and requirement, choose the gel documentation with a high-resolution camera.


The clear idea is to be made whether the gel documentation is required to simply acquire images or for both analysis and imaging. What analysis is required for your application? Whether you require a stand-alone system or want to run on the PC with suitable software.  Requirement of software licenses and software updation required on regular basis are to be considered.


Automation has made the gel documentation system easy to use but it is more expensive compared to that of other gel documentation systems.

Ease of use and reliability

A Gel documentation system is the primary requirement for all the labs of molecular biology. Easy to use and reliable is the most important consideration in choosing a gel documentation system. Ease of use includes compact in size, portable, hood-mount gel documentation system, affordable, quality gel documentation, the standalone system with the integrated tablet. The integrated tablet-to-be touch screen can be easily interfaced with the PC using suitable software.


As there are many different types of gel documentation systems available in the market. It is required to understand the different types of gel documentation systems and the basic requirements of your lab. This will help you to purchase the best fit gel documentation system for your need.

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