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Product literature for Invitrogen's E-gels®, a precast agarose gel system, neatly summarizes the purported advantages of such products: "E-gels make agarose electrophoresis as easy as Plug & Play." The vast majority of researchers are perfectly capable of pouring their own gels, of course--the process is certainly not difficult. It may, however, be tedious. It can also be tricky; leaks are a constant bugaboo, and gel-to-gel variation can be a problem. And some of the reagents are downright nasty--unpolymerized acrylamide, for instance, is a neurotoxin. Companies such as Carlsbad, Calif.-based Invitrogen and Milford, Conn.-based Jule hope that these considerations will prompt you to think twice before pouring your own electrophoresis gels.

Since the first precast gels were introduced nearly two decades ago, many life science researchers have been foregoing messy agarose, toxic acrylamide, and malodorous TEMED (tetramethylethylenediamine) in favor of disposable gelatinous slabs, prepackaged...

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