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Question:
Why does a scientist need to stain a specimen before examining it under a microscope?



Replies:
Most specimens are fairly transparent under the microscope, with the exception of things like green plant cells, and are very difficult to see against a plain white background. The stains add color to the picture, making the image much easier to see. The stains actually work by fixing themselves to various structures on or in the cell to be observed, the exact structure determined by the staining process used.

--WORDSWORTH


Very true! It is amazing how transparent cells are if they are observed without being stained. It is worth mentioning that the varieties of stains available are numerous, and are a vital tool to scientists to determine what the cellular components are made of... Starch, protein, and even nucleic acids can be brought out using special stains. A general stain, like TBO, may be used in classroom labs. This reacts with different parts of the cells to create many different shades of red, blue and green. The difference in colour and staining intensity gives a good idea what the cell parts are made of... A creative use of two or more stains can give a good deal of information to the microscopist.

T.



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