Bioimaging Sample Preparation Tools

Bioimaging Sample Preparation Tools

In the world of life sciences, one of the most critical aspects of research is the ability to observe and understand the intricacies of biological specimens at the cellular and molecular levels. Bioimaging is the gateway to this microscopic universe, enabling scientists to gain insights into the inner workings of living organisms. However, before these investigations can take place, a crucial step must be executed: sample preparation. This article delves into the realm of bioimaging sample preparation tools, elucidating their significance and exploring some of the essential instruments used in this fascinating field.

Figure 1. Typical work flow of tissue section preparation for MSI.Figure 1. Typical work flow of tissue section preparation for MSI. (Yoon S, et al.; 2018)

The Significance of Sample Preparation

  • The ultimate success of bioimaging experiments depends significantly on the quality of the prepared samples. Sample preparation involves a series of steps designed to render the biological material suitable for microscopic analysis. It is an intricate process with several crucial objectives:
  • Preservation: One of the primary aims is to preserve the sample in its near-natural state. This ensures that the cellular structures and molecular components are not compromised during preparation.
  • Fixation: To maintain the integrity of the sample, fixation is often necessary. This process involves the use of chemicals to immobilize cellular structures and prevent decay or degradation.
  • Staining: Staining techniques enhance the contrast of the sample, making it easier to visualize specific structures or molecules. Various dyes and stains are employed to achieve this goal.
  • Embedding: In some cases, embedding the sample in a medium is necessary to provide support for thin sectioning, which is essential for certain imaging techniques.
  • Sectioning: For some applications, especially in electron microscopy, the sample needs to be sliced into thin sections to facilitate imaging. Specialized tools are employed for this purpose.
  • Mounting: Samples are often mounted on slides or other substrates for examination under a microscope.
  • The use of appropriate tools and techniques in sample preparation is paramount to ensure that the subsequent imaging process yields reliable and scientifically valuable results.

Essential Sample Preparation Tools

  • Microtomes: Microtomes are indispensable tools for preparing thin slices of biological samples for microscopy. They come in various types, such as rotary microtomes and cryostats, each suitable for different sample types and applications.
  • Fixatives: Formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, and osmium tetroxide are common fixatives used to preserve the structure and integrity of biological specimens.
  • Stains and Dyes: A wide range of stains and dyes are available, each tailored to highlight specific cellular components. Hematoxylin and eosin (H&E), for instance, are commonly used for general histological staining, while DAPI and propidium iodide are used for DNA visualization.
  • Embedding Media: For electron microscopy, embedding in epoxy resins or acrylic resins is essential to provide support and maintain sample integrity during ultra-thin sectioning.
  • Ultramicrotomes: These specialized microtomes are used in electron microscopy to produce ultrathin sections of samples. They require a high degree of precision and are capable of cutting sections as thin as 20 nanometers.
  • Tissue Processors: Automated tissue processors streamline the steps of dehydration, clearing, and paraffin infiltration, making sample preparation for histology more efficient.
  • Cryostats: Cryostats are essential for sectioning frozen tissues. They maintain samples at low temperatures, allowing for precise sectioning without the need for resin embedding.
  • Microscope Slides and Coverslips: Proper slides and coverslips are essential for mounting and protecting samples during the imaging process.
  • Microscope Stage Incubators: These specialized incubators fit on the microscope stage and provide controlled temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels for live-cell imaging experiments.
  • Microinjection Systems: For the introduction of specific molecules or genetic material into live cells, microinjection systems are used to precisely deliver substances into individual cells.

The Intersection of Art and Science

Sample preparation in bioimaging is, in many ways, an art as well as a science. It requires a delicate touch, precision, and an understanding of the specific requirements of the biological material under investigation. Researchers must balance the preservation of delicate structures with the need to enhance contrast for visualization.

The tools used in bioimaging sample preparation are diverse and specialized, catering to a wide array of applications. Whether it's the meticulous sectioning of tissues for histology or the high-resolution imaging of cellular components with electron microscopy, these tools play a pivotal role in the scientific journey.

The future of bioimaging sample preparation is filled with promise, with ongoing advancements in technology and techniques. As our understanding of the microscopic world deepens, sample preparation tools will continue to evolve, offering even greater precision and ease of use.


In conclusion, the world of bioimaging sample preparation tools is a fascinating realm where science and technology converge. These tools empower researchers to unlock the secrets of life at the smallest scales, offering profound insights into the workings of the biological world. It is through the meticulous and skillful use of these tools that scientists continue to illuminate the hidden marvels of the microscopic universe.

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  1. Yoon S, Lee TG. Biological tissue sample preparation for time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) imaging. Nano Converg. 2018, 5(1):24.

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