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Biotech Histochem. 2005 Jan-Feb;80(1):7-13.

Determination of optimal rehydration, fixation and staining methods for histological and immunohistochemical analysis of mummified soft tissues.

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Department of Biology I, Biodiversity Research/Anthropology, Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich, Germany.


During an excavation headed by the German Institute for Archaeology, Cairo, at the tombs of the nobles in Thebes-West, Upper Egypt, three types of tissues from different mummies were sampled to compare 13 well known rehydration methods for mummified tissue with three newly developed methods. Furthermore, three fixatives were tested with each of the rehydration fluids. Meniscus (fibrocartilage), skin, and a placenta were used for this study. The rehydration and fixation procedures were uniform for all methods. The stains used were standard hematoxylin and eosin, elastica van Gieson, periodic acid-Schiff, and Grocott, and five commercially obtained immunohistochemical stains including pancytokeratin, vimentin, alpha-smooth-muscle-actin, basement membrane collagen type IV, and S-100 protein. The sections were examined by transmitted light microscopy. Our study showed that preservation of the tissue is dependent on the quality and effectiveness of the combination of the rehydration and fixation solutions, and that the quality of the histological and histochemical stains is dependent on the tissue quality. In addition, preservation of the antigens in the tissues is dependent on tissue quality, and fungal permeation had no influence on the tissue. Finally, the results are tissue specific. For placenta the best solution combination was Sandison and solution III (both fixed with formaldehyde) while results for skin were best with Ruffer I (using formaldehyde and Schaffer as fixatives), Grupe et al. (using formaldehyde as a fixative) and solution III (in combination with formaldehyde and Bouin fixatives). Ruffer II (using formaldehyde as a fixative) and solution III (in combination with Schaffer fixative) gave the best results for fibrocartilage.

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