Staining

Staining is a technique used to enhance contrast in samples, generally at the microscopic level. Stains and dyes are frequently used in histology (microscopic study of biological tissues) and in the medical fields of histopathology, hematology, and cytopathology that focus on the study and diagnoses of disease at a microscopic level. Stains may be used to define biological tissues (highlighting, for example, muscle fibers or connective tissue), cell populations (classifying different blood cells), or organelles within individual cells.

A stained histologic specimen, sandwiched between a glass microscope slide.

In biochemistry it involves adding a class-specific (DNA, proteins, lipids, carbohydrates) dye to a substrate to qualify or quantify the presence of a specific compound. Staining and fluorescent tagging can serve similar purposes. Biological staining is also used to mark cells in flow cytometry, and to flag proteins or nucleic acids in gel electrophoresis. Light microscopes are used for viewing stained samples at high magnification, typically using bright-field or epi-fluorescence illumination.

Staining is not limited to biological materials, it can also be used to study the structure of other materials for example the lamellar structures of semi-crystalline polymers or the domain structures of block copolymers.


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