The single-cell gel electrophoresis technique or comet assay is widely regarded as a quick and reliable method of analysing DNA damage in individual cells. It has a proven track record from the fields of biomonitoring to nutritional studies. The assay operates by subjecting cells that are fixed in agarose to high salt and detergent lysis, thus removing all the cellular content except the DNA. By relaxing the DNA in an alkaline buffer, strands containing breaks are released from supercoiling. Upon electrophoresis, these strands are pulled out into the agarose, forming a tail which, when stained with a fluorescent dye, can be analysed by fluorescence microscopy. The intensity of this tail reflects the amount of DNA damage sustained. Despite being such an established and widely used assay, there are still many aspects of the comet assay which are not fully understood. The present review looks at how the comet assay is being used, and highlights some of its limitations. The protocol itself varies among laboratories, so results from similar studies may vary. Given such discrepancies, it would be attractive to break the assay into components to generate a mathematical model to investigate specific parameters.
|Journal||Biochemical Society Transactions|
|Publication status||Published (in print/issue) - 2009|