Question: Have you tried any good DIY microscope dyes or stains?

mimiss asked on April 01, 2019 17:49
122 views | 0 answers | #18930


I'm looking for affordable ways to stain microscope samples to increase visibility. What are good alternatives to more expensive and harder to source dyes, like hematoxylin, eosin, carmine, methylene blue, methyl green, and the like?

Suggestions I've seen include things like ink, beet juice, plant based dyes, and food coloring.

What qualities should I look for in potential dye alternatives (pH, charge, solubility, etc)?



5 Comments

We've used watercolors, like these, and they work well: https://www.amazon.com/Pebeo-Colorex-Watercolor-Bottle-Dropper/dp/B005MQODAA/ and https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005SBVXCA/

beet juice is nice because it doesn't kill the cells, though i dunno which usual dyes do or don't harm microorganisms... 

I also don't know if some cells like to eat the beet juice :-)

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I'm looking for affordable ways to stain microscope samples to increase visibility. What are good alternatives to more expensive and harder to source dyes, like hematoxylin, eosin, carmine, methylene blue, methyl green, and the like?

Suggestions I've seen include things like ink, beet juice, plant based dyes, and food coloring.

What qualities should I look for in potential dye alternatives (pH, charge, solubility, etc)?


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Do you have any photos of how the stains worked out? Or maybe notes on what concentrations of dye were too little/too much?

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Yes, the purple ones in these are with beet juice, although that time it was pickled beet juice, with vinegar, and maybe some garlic (yum): https://publiclab.org/tag/microscope/author/warren/

But not with the blue watercolor yet... next time I'll be sure to save a few!

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Do you have any photos of how the stains worked out? Or maybe notes on what concentrations of dye were too little/too much?


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Can you give a quick pointer as to when (and why) to dye a sample for microscoping? Are there different kinds of samples that benefit from dye, or things that shouldn't be dyed?

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Staining is used mostly with cells, both bacterial and eukaryotic (i.e. animal or plant cells) for better visualization. Stains can increase contrast and highlight particular features. For example, you can use stains to better view the nucleus of cells or their cell walls for clear identification of the boundaries of a single cell.

Here are some of the functions of stains listed in the above question: Carmine - colors animal starch (glycogen), red. Coomassie Blue - stains proteins a bright blue Eosin - a counterstain to haematoxylin, this stain colors red blood cells, cytoplasmic material, cell membranes, and extracellular structures pink or red. Hematoxylin - a nuclear stain that, with a mordant, stains nuclei blue-violet or brown. Iodine - used as a starch indicator. When in a solution, starch and iodine turn a dark blue in color. Methylene Blue - stains animal cells to make nuclei more visible.

Stains are mostly used on dead cells that have been preserved in some way, but some are usable on living cells as well.


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