Cell lysis is the process by which cell membranes are broken down so that the contents within the cell can be studied and/or purified. It’s a critical part of many industrial and research enterprises, often providing the only means by which certain products can be made or used. There are several different ways to lyse cells (broadly categorized as either mechanical or non-mechanical) with each type dependent on the makeup of the cellular barrier, as well as the intended application of the cellular contents themselves. For instance, some cell lysis methods are highly destructive and, thus, not suitable in situations where the contents of the cell need to remain intact to be serviceable (such as during RNA and protein extractions). Others only work when applied to weaker cell barriers (such as animal plasma membranes vs. plant cell walls), and still others have to be combined with additional processes in order to effectively open the cell at all. The good news is that a variety of homogenizers can lyse cells under a variety of circumstances. Read on to learn more.
Mechanical Cell Lysis Options with Homogenizers
Mechanical cell lysis utilizes a particular force (or forces) to physically break apart a cell. It differs from non-mechanical cell lysis in that it doesn’t rely on any added chemicals or enzymes to promote cell disruption, thus making it a better option for large samples with tough cell walls (plant, fungi, bacterial and algal, etc.) where sensitivity might not be as big an issue and when unwanted additives could contaminate the lysate. Here’s how different homogenizers lyse cells:
1. Agitation, Stirring, Shearing and Impact
Mechanical homogenizers like blenders, mortars and pestles, bead mills, rotor-stator homogenizers and blade homogenizers use a blade, probe or beads to generate turbulent mixing that breaks apart cellular membranes. These types of homogenizers are especially useful because they can be customized in various ways (according to sample size and viscosity, processing time and agitation speed, to name but a few), making it easier to ensure that an appropriate amount of force is applied in the least disruptive way. This not only saves valuable time and money, it better safeguards cellular contents.
Other types of homogenizers — high pressure homogenizers or HPHs — apply pressure to lyse cells. By squeezing cell suspensions through a narrow opening, HPHs effectively disrupt cellular bonds, leaving the intracellular contents exposed.
3. Ultrasonic Sound Waves
Finally, some homogenizers make use of high frequency sound waves to create microbubbles within a cell suspension that expand, coalesce and then burst, causing cells to break apart. These types of homogenizers are known as ultrasonic homogenizers and are especially useful because the frequency and strength of the waves can be adjusted for both small and large samples, as well as a range of cell types. In addition, the amount of ultrasonic force can be amplified (or not) depending on the type of cellular barrier (i.e., more force can be applied when the sample is a plant cell and less when it is an animal one).
Ready to Learn More?
You need the right equipment to lyse cells. Different homogenizing methods offer different advantages and disadvantages. The key is matching the best process to your application and your available resources. We believe our homogenizers here at BEE International provide you with the most optimal solution because our patented Emulsifying Cell (EC) system provides you with options that a singular type of homogenizing system would not. With our machines you can combine and customize homogenizing forces so that your cell lysis processes are effective and profitable. Contact us to learn more.
You might also wish to download our free eBook, “7 Key Factors to Consider When Choosing A Cell Lysis Method,” for additional information.