The Apoptotic DNA Ladder Detection Kit I provides an easy and sensitive means for detecting DNA fragmentation in apoptotic cells. The method requires less than 90 minutes to prepare the DNA, without the need for extraction or columns. DNA fragmentation can then easily be visualized by agarose gel electrophoresis. The procedure increases recovery of small fragmented DNA, and therefore improves the sensitivity of the assay. The assay can be used to detect apoptotic DNA ladders, extracting both genomic DNA and laddered DNA. The Apoptotic DNA Ladder Detection Kit I plus additionally includes a highly sensitive DNA staining dye for improved visualization of DNA fragmentation by agarose gel electrophoresis.