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Biotech Histochem. 1995 Mar;70(2):70-4.

A thionin stain for visualizing bone cells, mineralizing fronts and cement lines in undecalcified bone sections.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


A staining method is described using thionin, for undecalcified deacrylated bone sections. RNA is stained purplish violet, allowing still active osteoblasts to be distinguished from lining cells. Staining intensity of mineralized bone is related to the degree of mineralization. Mineralizing fronts and cement lines are visualized clearly. Lamellae show an alternate pattern. Histomorphometric parameters such as osteon thickness and interstitial bone thickness can be measured without using polarized light. The mineralizing front can be assessed and expressed as a percentage of the osteoblast-covered interface between osteoid and mineralized bone. The stain is also useful for qualitative assessment of metabolic bone disease. Thionin stained sections can be kept for at least one year when stored in the dark at 7 C.

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