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Some Improvements in Zoological Microtechnique for Electron Microscopy


The results we achieve in scientific endeavour are only as good as our methods allow us to obtain. Not only is it necessary to scrutinise these methods to find ways of getting better results, but it is incumbent on us to find better ways of getting these results. Apart from improving the quality and accuracy of the end-products we can make our methods more efficient by lowering cost of materials involved, eliminating wastage, reducing time taken to complete a routine, and in general trying to simplify procedure as much as possible. In the case of some more empirical techniques, one should strive to rationalise the steps as far as possible to remove mystique which too often prevails where accurate knowledge is lacking.

Recently we have been involved in setting up an electron microscope and have had to endure the usual period of manipulative ineptitude and failures before familiarity has bred some skill and useful results. But from this experience we have been able to evolve several improvements in microtechnique for the preparation of zoological material for electron microscopy. These enable us to make new knives, and to cut, stain and photograph sections in 2½–3 hours from already prepared blocks. Furthermore, all staining is performed in an ordinary laboratory atmosphere without the troublesome formation of lead carbonate crystals on the grids. We do not use any artificial atmosphere such as nitrogen, and because of this are not encumbered either with extra apparatus involved while using nitrogen or with the necessity of having to work under hoods.

The following are the sections of this technique in which we think improvements on existing methods have been effected:
  • the cleaning of staining solutions, wash liquors and embedding materials from particles of suspended material;
  • the preparation of glass knives;
  • the preparation and use of a new stain.

Each of these will now be discussed.