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Microsc Res Tech. 2008 Jul;71(7):497-502. doi: 10.1002/jemt.20577.

A simple protocol for paraffin-embedded myelin sheath staining with osmium tetroxide for light microscope observation.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Cliniche e Biologiche, Università di Torino, Ospedale San Luigi Gonzaga, Regione Gonzole 10, Orbassano (TO), Italy.


Experimental investigation of peripheral nerve fiber regeneration is attracting more and more attention among both basic and clinical researchers. Assessment of myelinated nerve fiber morphology is a pillar of peripheral nerve regeneration research. The gold standard for light microscopic imaging of myelinated nerve fibers is toluidine blue staining of resin-embedded semithin sections. However, many researchers are unaware that the dark staining of myelin sheaths typically produced by this procedure is due to osmium tetroxide postfixation and not due to toluidine blue. In this article, we describe a simple pre-embedding protocol for staining myelin sheaths in paraffin-embedded nerve specimens using osmium tetroxide. The method involves immersing the specimen in 2% osmium tetroxide for 2 h after paraformaldehyde fixation, followed by routine dehydration and paraffin embedding. Sections can then be observed directly under the microscope or counterstained using routine histological methods. Particularly good results were obtained with Masson's trichrome counterstain, which permits the imaging of connective structures in nerves that are not detectable in toluidine blue-stained resin sections. Finally, we describe a simple protocol for osmium etching of sections, which makes further immunohistochemical analysis possible on the same specimens. Taken together, our results suggest that the protocol described in this article is a valid alternative to the conventional resin embedding-based protocol: it is much cheaper, can be adopted by any histological laboratory, and allows immunohistochemical analysis to be conducted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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