Tissue slicing is exactly that—to slice tissue. Although it may sound like a simple endeavor, tissue slicing is sometimes regarded as an artform that requires high skill and practice to master its difficult learning curve. Becoming adept in tissue slicing is essential for scientists who do research in electrophysiology, histology, in-situ hybridization, and organotypic culture. Obtaining thin sections of tissue is important for scientific research because it allows us to study tissue on the cellular level, and stain tissue for specific proteins (called immunohistochemistry). A widely used instrument for slicing tissue are microtomes, which are tools used to section very thin slices that can subsequently be examined under a microscope. A simple way to classify microtomes are by dividing them in 3 main categories:
- Manual microtomes
- Semi-automatic microtomes
- Automatic microtomes
When you delve into the various tissue slicing techniques that have been developed throughout history, it becomes clear that scientists are more creative and imaginative than you might think! The earliest earliest invention of a microtome is commonly accredited to George Adams in 1770 and later improved by Alexander Cummings. This early cylindrical shaped microtome edition utilized a hand crank and was used primarily to examine structures of wood under a microscope to evaluate its strength for constructional use. In 1865, Wilhelm His Sr’s invents an early microtome that has been claimed to be the first microtome used for microscopic species. Wilhelm used his microtome for embryonic research and has been quoted saying “The apparatus has enabled a precision in work by which I can achieve sections that by hand I cannot possibly create. Namely it has enabled the possibility of achieving unbroken sections of objects in the course of research.”.
In 1825-1835, Jan Evangelista Purkyne was accredited to inventing an early prototype . of the modern-day sliding microtome to slice various human and animal body tissue which helped him coin the term ”protoplasm”. At around the same time, Andrew Pritchard develops the first table based microtome, which was also a type of sliding microtome.
In 1881, Caldwell and Threlfall invents the rocking microtome and was said to be the first microtome to cut specimens of animal and plant tissues into continuous ribbons. In 1886, Professor Charles Sedgwick Minot invents the Minot Microtome, a type of rotary microtome. In 1892, Sir James Dewar’s pioneering work in cryogenics is the first to achieve the liquefication of hydrogen leading to the invention of the cryostat.
Curent Tissue Slicing
Today, most microtomes utilize a knife-block design typically with a changeable blade, a specimen holder and an advancement mechanism. Tissue slicing usually begins by sliding the sample over the knife via an advancement mechanism that can be adjusted to move forward a specific slice thickness.
Despite the various creative and imaginative techniques early scientists used to invent microtomes, there has been a clear lag in the innovation of modern-day tissue slicing. Precisionary Instruments was created from the hearts and ambition of those very early day microtome inventors. Their inspiration was the very driving force that led to the invention of the Compresstome® vibrating microtome.
In addition to the tissue slicing design of most modern brands on the market such as Leica, Campden, Krumdieck, and Ted Pella, Precisionary Instruments also includes both patented Compression and Auto-Zero Z® technology! With both semi-automatic and fully automatic vibrating microtomes available, Precisionary Instruments is proud to continue to contribute to the evolution and advancement of tissue slicing history.
Future of Tissue Slicing
With the growth of technology, there will inevitably be advancements in tissue slicing techniques! One exciting venture in the improvement of tissue slicing is made by a company called 3Scan, a biotechnology company based in San Francisco, CA. 3Scan is developing a computerized biopsy tool that utilizes a tissue slicer that includes a camera which digitizes ultra high-res images of sliced tissue. The image can be viewed as a 3D tissue reconstruction, providing interactive images and quantitative analytics viewed on a computer. This can potentially save you from making thousands of slides, as you would be able to view and analyze every cell from one slice of a tissue biopsy sample. Digitizing tissue in this manner allows scientists to better see how cells interact with each other, increase diagnostics, and change the way we understand disease. Precisionary Instruments is always inspired by new technology and embodies the spirit of innovation that allows for the growth in scientific research!
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