The microtome blade is a vital piece of equipment used in histology and pathology labs to slice tissue samples into small sections for microscopic analysis. These knives were created especially for use in microtomes, which are precise devices that grip and move tissue samples as the knife slices through them. Depending on the type of microtome and the intended use, microtome blades come in a range of sizes and forms. The blade’s quality is essential for producing precise and dependable tissue sample slices because any defect or dullness might lead to sections that are uneven and deformed. Read about the sliding microtome.
What is a microtome blade?
A microtome blade is a small, sharpened blade used to cut thin slices of biological or material samples for microscopic study. This process is called microtomy. The blade of the microtome, which is typically made of steel, tungsten carbide, or diamond, is intended to slice precisely and delicately through the sample with the least amount of harm.
The blade is usually attached to the microtome for the sectioning of tissue samples. In order to generate thin slices, the sample is fed into the blade or vice versa after the blade has been precisely set at the right angle. Many applications, including histology, pathology, and materials science, can be made use of the generated sections. Take a look at the electric handpiece.
Types of microtome blades
- Disposable blades: They are meant for single-use purposes to prevent contamination.
- Resharpenable blades– Blades that can be sharpened repeatedly before needing to be changed are available as well, composed of steel or tungsten carbide. Blades that can be sharpened again are frequently favored in research labs due to their cost.
- Diamond blades– They are used to cut hard or fragile materials including bone, teeth, and ceramics. They are made of high-quality diamond particles thus, very expensive.
- Glass knives– They are used to section resin-embedded which are very delicate.
- Disposable plastic blades- They are used to section small pieces of frozen tissues. They are disposable, economical, and do not require cryostat blade upkeep.
- Microtome blades can be found in a variety of shapes, such as straight, angled, and curved. The kind of tissue sample being sectioned and the intended orientation of the slice will determine the blade’s form.
Criteria for selecting a microtome blade
- Compatibility with microtome- Microtomes are made to work with particular kinds of blades. Because of this, it’s important to verify that the blade you choose is suitable with your microtome. Read about the rotary microtome.
- Blade material- Stainless steel, high-carbon steel, and tungsten carbide are some of the materials used to make microtome blades. There are positives and negatives to each substance. While being affordable, high-carbon steel blades may need to be sharpened frequently. Although they could cost more, stainless steel blades are stronger and more corrosion-resistant. The priciest blades are made of tungsten carbide because they are the toughest and can maintain their sharpness the longest.
- The thickness of the blade- The ability to cut portions of a certain thickness depends on the blade’s thickness. Between 8 and 16 microns is the range of thicknesses for blades. In contrast to thicker blades, which are better for cutting bigger portions, thinner blades work well for cutting thin sections. Read about dental composite instruments.
- Edge of the blade– Both disposable and non-disposable blade edges are available. Stainless steel or high-carbon steel are the typical materials used for disposable blades, which have a single usage only. The majority of non-disposable blades are constructed of tungsten carbide and are multi-resharpenable.
- Blade profile– The size of the portion that is sectioned depends on the knife’s design. Low-profile and high-profile blades are the two blade types that are most frequently used. Thin pieces of soft tissue can be cut with low-profile blades, whereas wider slices or tougher materials are best sectioned with high-profile blades.
How to maintain a microtome blade
- Clean the blade– Following each usage, the blade should be thoroughly cleaned to eliminate any tissue fragments or other waste that may have gathered on it. Use a solvent, such as ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, to clean the blade. To prevent injuries, make sure to put on gloves and handle the blade with care.
- Disinfect the blade- It’s crucial to disinfect the microtome blade before usage to avoid contaminating tissues. The blade can be sterilized by immersing it in a solution, such as 70% ethanol or hydrogen peroxide. Use gloves, wield the blade with caution, and adhere to the sterilization solution from the manufacturer.
- Proper storage of blade- While not in use, the microtome blade should be stored carefully to avoid damage or infection. It should be kept dry and clean. Use a blade cabinet or rack that is specifically made for this use to keep the blade. Avoid contacting the edge with your fingertips as this can deposit grease and other debris behind and hasten the blade’s aging process.
- Sharpening of the blade- Sharpen the blade since microtome blades can get worn out over time and become less efficient at cutting high-quality pieces. Sharpening the blade can be necessary if you realize that your portions are getting harder to section or are beginning to exhibit damage.
- Replacement of blade- While replacing a microtome blade, remember that even with routine maintenance, the blades might deteriorate or wear out over time. It might be time to change the blade if you observe that your slices are of inferior quality or if the blade is displaying deterioration symptoms like chips or cracks. Replace the blade according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, and handle it carefully to prevent damage.
A microtome blade is an essential tool for preparing thin slices for microscopy in general. To maintain optimal results, whether using disposable or reusable blades, it is crucial to choose the right blade for the task and to preserve it effectively. The blade can assist researchers and doctors in obtaining precise and comprehensive data on tissue samples by using the right technique and safety procedures. Another essential tool in pathology is the tissue processor.