Buying a tissue slicer? Consider the visual evidence for better slices

Hello there!

Welcome to our blog for Precisionary Instruments, the company that invented the Compresstome® tissue slicer!

What is the purpose of this blog?

We are a team of hands-on experts in biology, neuroscience, physiology, and engineering. We are starting this blog because we find that in our day-to-day work, we find tips around tissue sectioning, cool protocols, and new experimental designs that are interesting, and we want to share our findings with the scientific community.  We have also seen some discussions around tissue slicing on ResearchGate as well, namely this thread discussing the different options for sectioning for electrophysiology.

One of the most frequently asked questions that we get is:

“What is the advantage of the Compresstome® compared to other slicers?”

The vast majority of the time, our customers are on the fence about purchasing either a Compresstome® or another market vibrating microtome. We want to provide you with some empirical research and tests we ran in the lab to visually show how the results of tissue cut with the Compresstome® compare to sections made with a top notch vibrating microtome on the market.

For our experiments, we took fixed brains from adult mice and cut 50-µm thick sections using a Compresstome® VF-300-0Z slicer. The sections we got are shown as follows:


These images were taken at low magnification image (10X) with a bright field microscope at the edge of mouse brain tissue. Note that the edges are even, without curling or unevenly cut thicknesses (A). In panel (B), we took images at higher magnification (40X) of another brain region depicting a close-up view of the tissue edge using the emboss filter, which best shows the 3D surface characteristics. The Compresstome® helps preserve tissue architecture, and the agarose embedding material does not infiltrate the tissue. The surface of the tissue has even texture, with no chattermarks, and remains smooth for immunohistochemical staining.

Now, we also sectioned 50-µm thick brain slices from the same aged mouse using a leading market brand vibrating microtome. For the comparison we set the cutting parameters to the same oscillation frequency as that used on the Compresstome® VF-300-0Z, and speed settings that were equivalent in speed to that used with the Compresstome. Here are the results:


Although we got workable slices for immunohistochemistry, we noticed that the edges were uneven in many sections (panels A and B above). There was a gradient of tissue thickness, which only was resolved with much slower cutting speeds. Often, we got “thick & thin” alternating slices.

The biggest difference between slices made with the Compresstome® and the other microtome was found at high magnification—chattermarks! “Chattermarks” are also known as vibrating artifacts, and appear as little ripples on the slice surface. This “rippling” effect results in uneven protein staining during immunological processes, and is to be avoided.

Here’s a close-up look at slices made with the other market leading vibrating microtome:


Are you able to see the chattermarks? At speeds that are lowered than a Compresstome®, we unfortunately got chattermarks on our tissue slices. You can see that the tissue surfaces are uneven in the panels above.

…So what is the take-home message for our experimental comparison? We truly feel that the Compresstome® makes the most optimal slices—in this case, for fixed tissues! Here, we wanted to present some visual experimental evidence that tissues cut with the Compresstome® result in great slices!

In summary:

  • Sections made with the Compresstome® are even, and are free of chattermarks. At a slower cutting speed, sections with a market leading vibrating microtome have uneven surfaces and significant chattermarks.
  • Slice cutting speed is much faster with the Compresstome®—you can complete your job quicker!
  • Overall, the Compresstome® produces superior slices with high quality surfaces for your experiments.

Let us know of your experiences with using the Compresstome® or suggestions you may have for what topics you would like us to write about and we would love to post it here! If you have any questions, please contact us and we will get back to you within a day.


Phone: 617-682-0586

Free Quote Request: