Under The Microscope: Microscope Slides

Under The Microscope: Microscope Slides

Microscope slides are one of the most commonly used products across the entire specialities of Pathology.  The main purpose of microscope slides is to facilitate microscopic examination. Prepared slides are placed under a microscope to study tissue or cell samples and their structures at high magnification to determine whether they are normal or abnormal. Abnormalities in cell morphology, tissue architecture, or the presence of specific markers can provide valuable diagnostic information. Thus, allowing pathologists to identify and diagnose a magnitude of diseases, including cancers, infections, and other pathological conditions. 


Why is the quality of a microscope slide so important?

Not only can the quality of sample preparation have an effect on the results collected, but also the quality of the slide can play a big part on accuracy. A well-prepared slide with minimal irregularities or distortions ensures that pathologists can accurately interpret the sample. However, if the slide is of poor quality, it may lead to misinterpretations, misdiagnoses, or missed abnormalities.  

High-quality slides help pathologists make accurate assessments, which is critical for patient care and treatment decisions such as surgery plans, treatment selection, and prognosis. Therefore, it is pivotal that the quality of your microscope slides are assessed before use or even before purchase as they can contribute to better patient outcomes, reducing the likelihood of diagnostic errors. 


What makes a good microscope slide? 


Cleanliness and Quality of Glass

The glass used for the microscope slides should be of high quality, made from materials that offer a strong surface that will not break or warp during preparation or examination. Slides must be free from defects, and perfectly clean to avoid artifacts and distortions in the specimen’s view.  



The slide should be transparent and free from bubbles, scratches, or impurities that could obstruct the vision of the specimen or contaminate the results. Light from the microscope must be able to pass through the slide and illuminate the cell therefore the slide must be clear and transparent. 



Slides from the same batch should be consistent in terms of quality, thickness, and other properties to ensure reproducible results. The more consistent the slides, the more likely to yield consistent results when experiments or studies are repeated or when different researchers examine the same specimens. Consistency will allow pathologists to reliably compare and interpret slides, especially when tracking disease progression or treatment effectiveness. 


Uniform Thickness

The slide should have uniform thickness to ensure even illumination and focus across the entire specimen. Variations in thickness can cause parts of the specimen to appear out of focus. 


Resistance to Chemicals

When working with various chemicals and reagents, the microscope slide should be resistant to all used substances to prevent deterioration or chemical reactions that could alter the tissue’s appearance or damage the slide. 


Staining Compatibility

The slide should be compatible with various staining methods commonly used in pathology, such as H&E (hematoxylin and eosin) staining, immunohistochemistry, or special stains. It shouldn’t react with the staining agents or interfere with the staining process. When the stains are applied cellular structures should be highlighted clearly such as cytoplasm and cell membranes.