eCM (Eur Cell Mater / e Cells & Materials) Not-for-Profit Open Access
Created by Scientists, for Scientists
 ISSN:1473-2262         NLM:100973416 (link)         DOI:10.22203/eCM

2012   Volume No 24 – pages 154-161

Title: Staining plastic blocks with triiodide to image cells and soft tissues in backscattered electron SEM of skeletal and dental tissues

Author: A Boyde

Address: Dental Physical Sciences, Oral Growth and Development, Dental Institute, Barts' and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London E1 4NS, UK

E-mail: a.boyde at

Key Words: Bone; cartilage; osteoid; histopathology; implant interface.

Publication date: July 24th 2012

Abstract: Backscattered electron scanning electron microscopy (BSE SEM) is an invaluable method for studying the histology of the hard, mineralised components of poly-methyl methacrylate (PMMA) or other resin embedded skeletal and dental tissues. Intact tissues are studied in micro-milled or polished block faces with an electron-optical section thickness of the order of a half to one micron and with the area of the section as big as a whole – large or small – bone organ. However, BSE SEM does not give information concerning the distribution of uncalcified, ‘soft’, cellular and extracellular matrix components. This can be obtained by confocal microscopy of the same block and the two sorts of images merged but the blocks have to be studied in two microscope systems. The present work shows a new, simple and economic approach to visualising both components by using the triiodide ion in Lugol's iodine solution to stain the block surface prior to the application of any conductive coating – and the latter can be omitted if charging is suppressed by use of poor vacuum conditions in the SEM sample chamber. The method permits the use of archival tissue, and it will be valuable in studies of both normal growth and development and pathological changes in bones and joints, including osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, and tissue adaptation to implants.

Article download: Pages 154-161 (PDF file)
DOI: 10.22203/eCM.v024a11