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Adv Anat Pathol. 2000 Mar;7(2):110-22.

An update on "special stain" histochemistry with emphasis on automation.

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Department of Pathology, University of Arizona, Tucson 85724, USA.


For nearly 100 years, pathologists have utilized "special histochemical stains" to assist in tissue-based diagnosis. As illustrated in Figures 1 and 2, histochemical stains have been used to identify infectious microorganisms (e.g., Mycobacterium tuberculosis with acid-fast bacillus (AFB) stain), to detail inflammatory stromal or structural alterations (e.g., fibrosis in liver cirrhosis with Masson trichrome), to identify microanatomic sites of disease (e.g., basement membrane in glomerulonephritis with Jones methenamine silver), to identify abnormal chemical deposits (e.g., iron in hemochromatosis with Prussian blue stain), or abnormal immune deposits (e.g., amyloid via Congo red stain). The current surgical pathology laboratory may employ a repertoire of 20 to 25 "special stains" to ensure the full diagnostic complement. While the diagnostic repertoire and the biochemical recipes for the stains are now a well-established, codified part of surgical pathology, there is an ever-moving, leading edge of new developments including new reagents, applications, and methods. This review seeks to update the reader on some of the new applications including both new reagents and methods. Particular emphasis will be placed on the recent technologic advance of automating special stains in kinetic-mode (1-4). The authors consider in turn: 1. In brief, the "news" (recent literature review) of new staining applications; 2. In greater detail, two new applications for detection of Microsporidia and Helicobacer pylori; 3. The new technologic advancement of kinetic mode automation of special stains.

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