Come See Our Tissue Slicers in action at FENS 2024 with our partner Green Leaf Scientifc Booth 109! Book your personal demo here

Blog > What are the differences between a microtome and a vibratome?

What are the differences between a microtome and a vibratome?

Published on May 1, 2023

Microtome, vibratome, vibrating microtome…you’ve heard so many different terms for this type of laboratory equipment. Let us help you clear up any confusions in terminology!

Defining microtome vs vibratome

A microtome is a device used to cut very thin slices of tissue, called sections, for examination under a microscope. It typically uses a sharp, stationary blade to cut the tissue, and the thickness of the sections can be adjusted by changing the blade or adjusting the settings on the microtome.

A vibratome is a device that uses a vibrating blade to cut tissue into sections. The vibration of the blade helps to reduce tissue tearing and produce cleaner, more accurate sections.

One key difference is the way in which the tissue is cut. A microtome uses a stationary blade to slice the tissue, while a vibratome uses a vibrating blade. This can affect the quality and accuracy of the sections produced. Additionally, microtomes are typically used to produce thinner sections, whereas vibratomes are better suited for thicker tissue samples.

There are also differences in the precision and accuracy of the sections produced by microtomes and vibratomes. Microtomes are typically more precise, as the blade is stationary and can produce very thin, uniform sections. Vibratomes can produce sections that are slightly less precise, but are still suitable for many types of research and medical applications.

Ultimately, the choice between a microtome and a vibratome depends on the specific requirements of the research or application, including the type and thickness of the tissue being studied, the desired thickness of the sections, and the precision and accuracy needed.

Both microtomes and vibratomes are commonly used in research and medical laboratories to prepare tissue samples for microscopic examination. They are essentialtools for many types of scientific and medical research, including histology, cell biology, and pathology.

Microtomes and their operation

A microtome typically consists of a blade, a specimen holder, and a stage for positioning the specimen. The blade is mounted on a handle and is used to cut the tissue into thin sections. The specimen holder holds the tissue in place, and the stage allows the user to position the tissue relative to the blade.

Once the tissue is placed in the specimen holder, the blade is used to cut thin slices of the tissue, which are collected on a slide or other surface for examination under a microscope. The thickness of the sections can be adjusted by changing the blade or adjusting the settings on the microtome.

Microtomes are essential tools in many types of scientific and medical research, as they allow researchers to study the structure and function of tissues at the cellular level. They are commonly used in research laboratories, hospitals, and other medical facilities.

To operate a microtome, follow these steps:

  • Preparing the microtome: Make sure the microtome is clean and in good working order. Check that the blade is sharp and properly mounted, and that the specimen holder is clean and in good condition.
  • Preparing the specimen: Depending on the type of tissue you are cutting, you may need to fix it in formalin or another fixative, or embed it in paraffin or another embedding medium. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer or protocol you are using.
  • Mounting the specimen: Place the tissue specimen in the specimen holder, making sure it is positioned correctly relative to the blade. Some microtomes have a clamp or other mechanism to hold the specimen in place.
  • Adjusting the thickness: Set the thickness of the sections you want to cut using the adjustment mechanism on the microtome. Different microtomes have different methods for adjusting the thickness, so consult the user manual for specific instructions.
  • Cutting the sections: Hold the handle of the blade with one hand and the handle of the specimen holder with the other hand. Slowly and carefully advance the blade through the tissue, using a smooth, steady motion. Collect the sections on a slide or other surface for examination under a microscope.
  • Cleaning the microtome: Once you have finished cutting sections, clean the blade, specimen holder, and other parts of the microtome according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This will help ensure that the microtome is in good condition and ready for use in the future.

It is important to follow proper safety procedures when using a microtome, including wearing protective goggles and gloves and handling the blade with care. Consult the user manual and any other relevant safety guidelines before operating a microtome.

Vibrotomes and their operation

A vibratome is a scientific instrument used to cut thin slices of tissue for examination under a microscope. It is similar to a microtome, but instead of using a stationary blade to cut the tissue, it uses a vibrating blade.

A vibratome typically consists of a blade, a specimen holder, and a stage for positioning the specimen. The blade is mounted on a handle and is vibrated at a high frequency to cut the tissue into thin sections. The specimen holder holds the tissue in place, and the stage allows the user to position the tissue relative to the blade.

To use a vibratome, a piece of tissue is placed in the specimen holder and positioned relative to the blade. The blade is then activated, and the tissue is cut into thin sections as the blade vibrates through it. The sections are collected on a slide or other surface for examination under a microscope.

Vibratomes are commonly used in research and medical laboratories to prepare tissue samples for microscopic examination. They are particularly useful for cutting thicker tissue samples, as the vibrating blade helps to reduce tissue tearing and produce cleaner, more accurate sections.

To operate a vibratome, follow these steps:

  • Preparing the vibratome: Make sure the vibratome is clean and in good working order. Check that the blade is sharp and properly mounted, and that the specimen holder is clean and in good condition.
  • Preparing the specimen: Depending on the type of tissue you are cutting, you may need to fix it in formalin or another fixative, or embed it in paraffin or another embedding medium. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer or protocol you are using.
  • Mounting the specimen: Place the tissue specimen in the specimen holder, making sure it is positioned correctly relative to the blade. Some vibratomes have a clamp or other mechanism to hold the specimen in place.
  • Adjusting the thickness: Set the thickness of the sections you want to cut using the adjustment mechanism on the vibratome. Different vibratomes have different methods for adjusting the thickness, so consult the user manual for specific instructions.
  • Cutting the sections: Activate the blade by pressing the appropriate button or switch. Hold the handle of the specimen holder with one hand, and use the other hand to guide the blade through the tissue. Collect the sections on a slide or other surface for examination under a microscope.
  • Cleaning the vibratome: Once you have finished cutting sections, clean the blade, specimen holder, and other parts of the vibratome according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This will help ensure that the vibratome is in good condition and ready for use in the future.

It is important to follow proper safety procedures when using a vibratome, including wearing protective goggles and gloves and handling the blade with care. Consult the user manual and any other relevant safety guidelines before operating a vibratome.

 

Related blogs

June 5, 2024

“Our goal is to develop and apply new ultrafast laser scanning multimodal imaging and spectroscopic technologies, such as stimulated Raman scattering (SRS), second harmonic generation (SHG), and multiphoton fluorescence (MPF) microscopy, for visualizing molecular composition and metabolic dynamics in situ at subcellular resolution to study aging and diseases,” explains Professor Lingyan Shi. The Laboratory of Optical Bioimaging and Spectroscopy, led by Dr. Shi, is at the forefront of this groundbreaking research.

May 16, 2024

Leading the charge in innovative neuroscience research is Prof. Carsten Hagemann, heading the Section Experimental Neurosurgery within the Neurosurgery Department at the University Hospital Würzburg, Germany. With a firm commitment to bridging the gap between laboratory discoveries and clinical applications, this section stands at the forefront of translational neuroscience research.

617-682-0586