1Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories, Monash University, 2Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Monash University
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Goldschlager, T., Abdelkader, A., Kerr, J., Boundy, I., Jenkin, G. Undecalcified Bone Preparation for Histology, Histomorphometry and Fluorochrome Analysis. J. Vis. Exp. (35), e1707, doi:10.3791/1707 (2010).
Undecalcified bone histology demonstrates the micro-architecture of bone. It shows both the mineralised and cellular components of bone, which provides vital information on bone turnover or bone formation and resorption. This has tremendous importance in a variety of clinical and research applications. It yields beautiful images1 and allows for techniques such as fluorochrome assessment and histomorphometry2. Fluorochrome analysis is a technique where fluorescent dyes that bind to calcium are injected at a particular time point, which allows for quantification of the amount of mineralisation at that given time. Histomorphometry is a process of bone quantification at the microscopic level.
Performing undecalcified bone histology is technically challenging, particularly with large size specimens. It requires variations in technique from those used in standard paraffin embedded histology. This video illustrates the process of producing good quality sections and demonstrates the technical difficulties and methods with which to overcome them. Specimen preparation, fixation and processing are achieved with a manner similar to other soft tissues, however due to the density and lower permeability of bone considerably longer fixation and processing times are required, often taking several weeks. Embedding is achieved using a supporting medium with similar or equal hardness and density to the bone such as methacrylate- based resins, but unlike paraffin infiltration and embedding, this is an irreversible step. Sectioning can be achieved by grinding which produces a thicker section, which is optimal for studies such as fluorochrome analysis. This is best achieved using a diamond blade on a macrotome. Alternatively, thinner sections can be produced for light microscopy and this is achieved using a sledge microtome with a very sharp blade. The sledge microtome provides the additional strength and stability required for large, hard blocks. Resin embedded sections can be stained with a variety of stains, which are demonstrated.
The authors would like to acknowledge the assistance of Ms Sue Connell for her expertise in resin embedding and Ms Stephania Tombs for her laboratory expertise. The authors would like to thank Professor Frank Kandziora and Dr Marie-Anne Polboth for their advice.