Digital Pathology is taking huge lab-leaps forward as a result of the Covid19 pandemic.  Just as GPs have been reporting that their surgeries moved forward by the equivalent of 5 years in 72 hours at the end of March in terms of remote consulting, so too has the shift been dramatic in the laboratory setting.

Already, many of the building blocks are in place.  LIM systems have transformed modern histology labs and provided far greater opportunities for sample tracing and general automation.  Modern tissue processors are providing better quality samples than ever before and cassette and slide printers give solutions for tracing every step of the sample around the lab.  High definition technology for both producing and reading electronic slides is not just available, but commonplace.

So, what’s all this got to do with microtomes?

Well, let’s be honest: the majority of labs are still using manual microtomes that would not have been out of place in the 1970s.

Of course, microtomists will argue that it is their skills and dexterity – the very alchemy of art and science blending together – which create the perfect section.  We certainly don’t disagree.  But, at the same time, for all his genius, would Lewis Hamilton be leading the World Championship if he was driving a Ford Capri?

Perhaps more seriously, the prolonged use of manual microtomes can lead to debilitating conditions such as RSI, and create unnecessary strain – particularly on the spine and shoulders.

Automated and semi-automated microtomes can transform the way microtomists work without losing any of the finer sensitivity in sectioning.  This because they are balanced to work in harmony with the operator and provide various options according to personal taste.  For example, the semi-automated microtome is likely to suit those who have used a manual microtome over many years.  The machine simply allows you to free-up your left hand and concentrate instead on the sectioning speed and ribbon quality.  The chuck moves automatically to a pre-set thickness on each turn of the handwheel.

The fully-automated version allows you to go a step further.  On this machine, it is possible use a simple dial (or sometimes a foot pedal) to regulate the speed of the section cutting.  So, for example, it would be possible to trim a block by pre-selecting the thickness and using the electronic dial to regulate the speed.  This process could be repeated for a batch of blocks, which would then be transferred to a cooling plate before the fine sectioning began.

On the Galileo Pro Configuration model, it is possible to scan cassettes so that the machine automatically realigns itself to the ideal position for that particular block’s cutting face.  The scanning process can also assist with sample tracing as part of the broader Lim system.

Once sectioning starts, the operator can choose various options.  On the Galileo version, there is a foot pedal, which allows the operator to section at their own speed, whilst their hands remain free to tend to the cut sections.  They can also continue to operate the dial system, or alternatively opt for the handwheel if that is their preference.

When preparing a lab to become fully digital, one of the areas that is often ignored is microtomy.  But modern microtomes should be part of the solution.  This is partly because they can help to provide the link in track and tracing – but far more importantly, they allow microtomists to perform their art in the best possible circumstances, whilst protecting themselves from strain and harm.

If you’re still unsure, trialling the equipment can provide the perfect solution.  Why not ask your lab manager to book your free demonstration and trial the Galileo in your lab?

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  1. Tamiflu says:

    ** Picro-sirius red staining Question. I have been asked to do a “picrosirius” staining procedure. What is it? Answer. Picro-sirius red is a solution of sirius red F3B (0.1%) in saturated aqueous picric acid. It is typically used after an iron haematoxylin nuclear stain, much as Van Gieson, but for 60 minutes. Rinse in slightly acidified water and dehydrate in three changes of absolute alcohol. The result is similar to Van Gieson (Collagen red, cytoplasms red cells yellow) but sirius red F3B shows thinner fibres that are often missed by Van Gieson. The real difference is seen by using a polarizing microscope. With crossed polars the collagen fibres, even very thin ones, appear in brilliant orange, yellow and green colours against a black background. Basement membranes, though stained, do not exhibit this birefringence because their collagen fibres are not aligned.

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