Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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National Pathology Week Stress and Stain

New technique brings another level of detail and cellular differentiation to the study of tissues

02 November 2020

Stress and Stain

We see the world as a mixture of reds, greens and blues, our trichromatic vision helping to recognise and remember important details in the everyday blends of colour. Looking down through a light microscope, histologists face the challenge of recognising features in colourless tissue samples – but a new technique aims to help with a combination of colourful stains, the ‘RGB trichrome’. A series of chemical washes bathes this embryonic muscle tissue in Alcian blue (which highlights molecules in the extracellular matrix surrounding cells) fast green (revealing background muscle cell proteins) and Sirius red (showing collagen). Subtle differences in shades allow researchers to spot signs of healthy muscle development, such as the striped myotubes (green/yellow stripes) and connective tissue (purply red). Surprisingly, the researchers also found the stains blend together in unusual ways in diseased tissue, potentially creating a colourful way of spotting certain cancers.

Today marks the start of National Pathology Week

Written by John Ankers

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