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Bead beating is a simple method that has been widely used to disrupt cells. It’s a common lab scale method that uses steel beads, first developed by Tim Hopkins in the 1970’s. The process is done to allow the beads to collide with the cellular sample or bacteria which opens it and releases the biological molecules.

What is Bead Beating?

Bead beating is a simple method that has been widely used to disrupt cells. It’s a common lab scale method that uses steel beads, first developed by Tim Hopkins in the 1970’s. The process is done to allow the beads to collide with the cellular sample or bacteria which opens it and releases the biological molecules. It works well for all types of cellular material.

If you are trying to crack open cells or tear apart tissues, you can use bead beating with a variety of tools.

How Are Cells or Bacteria Disrupted?

To understand beat beating in disrupting cells, it’s important to have a basic knowledge of how cells or bacteria are effectively disrupted.

You can disrupt bacteria by treating it with enzymes and detergents. Removing the cell wall is typically done in gram positive organisms and then adding SDS to lysis. These enzymes and detergents are great in targeting nucleic acids.

However, if you wish to target proteins or cellular components, other methods may be more preferable. Beat beating is one of the alternative techniques that have proven to be more effective in disrupting bacteria.

Bead Beating Procedures

Here are the general procedures and limitations in bacteria cell disruption by bead beating.

Equipment

You can perform bead beating in a variety of tools such as microfuge tubes, deep well plates, vials and customized jars. The important thing is to not overfill the container with either the beads or the culture. Make sure that the container is no more than halfway full so that the bacteria and the beads have space to move during the process. No need to add detergents.

Homogenization

Some applications may require the bacteria to be homogenized in culture and resuspended in an appropriate lysis buffer. The cells should be prepared then added to the pre-filled microfuge tubes that contain the beads. You need to ensure that the beads are loaded before adding the samples to the tubes.

Sealing

Once the beads and the cells are properly loaded, cap the tubes with spill-proof closures. There are caps with O-rings that can be used with screw caps on microfuge tubes that make it more secure. You can seal strip caps with individual caps. Do not use silicone press on mats for high throughput beating because they are prone to leaks that could cause contamination.

The rest of the process involves optimizing the homogenization by doing the beating in short durations then using centrifugation to pellet the bacterial cells.