Histological Analysis of an Alkaline Based Tissue Clearing Technique for Fetal Musculoskeletal Tissue

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Andres Fernando Gomez-Samper; Mario Alberto Latiff; Juan Sebastian Lopez-McCormick & Roberto Javier Rueda-Esteban


Tissue clearing techniques are frequently used in the observation and description of anatomical structures and pathways without altering the three-dimensional layout of the anatomical specimen. Tissue optical clearing promotes preservation of three-dimensional structures, which allows the study of the internal anatomy in its original position and original spatial interaction. Among these techniques, Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) maceration clearing is one of the most widely used. However, the histological changes of tissue after KOH maceration have yet to be fully understood. Our aim is to describe the microscopical differences between macerated and normal tissue. To better understand said changes, two human fetuses with a gestation period of 16 to 28 weeks were cleared and processed for histological analysis. Microtome slides of the fetuses’ lower limbs were obtained and stained with Hematoxylin & Eosin, Periodic Acid Schiff (PAS), and Masson’s trichrome with the purpose of observing the histological and macromolecule composition changes in cleared tissue. Remarkable differences at a histological level regarding the composition of the cellular structures, since diaphanized tissues showed a predominance of extracellular matrix composed of collagen fibers with the absence of most of the nucleated cellular tissue. Phospholipid’s saponification, nucleic acids degradation and a change on proteins structural properties are the main factors inducing clearing. At the same time, molecular stability of collagen in alkaline conditions allows the specimen to maintain its shape after the process.

KEY WORDS: Anatomy & histology; Dawson; Diaphanization; Extracellular matrix; Tissue clearing.

How to cite this article

GOMEZ-SAMPER, A. F.; LATIFF, M. A.; LOPEZ-MCCORMICK, J. S. & RUEDA-ESTEBAN, R. J. Histological analysis of an alkaline based tissue clearing technique for fetal musculoskeletal tissue. Int. J. Morphol., 40(3):557-561, 2022.