‘Trouble-shooting’ microwave accelerated procedures in histology and histochemistry: understanding and dealing with artefacts, errors and hazards
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Heating by microwave irradiation (microwaving) is a controllable way to accelerate most processes of diffusion and many chemical reactions occurring in histoprocessing and histochemistry. Consequently, microwaving can be particularly time-saving. However, apart from desirable accelerations, unwanted diffusions and reactions may also occur. These can generate artefacts such as extraction of tissue components, chemical alterations of cellular content, and decomposition of thermally labile staining reagents. Artefacts may arise at all stages of histoprocessing, from fixation, through embedding, to staining. Whereas all artefacts result from heating, some specifically involve microwave ovens; e.g. irregular heating due to inhomogeneities in the microwave field, and ageing of the magnetron.
Microwaving can involve certain hazards. Most of them also arise in conventional ovens, but a few are unique to microwave ovens; for example, aqueous contents heating faster than glass containers, and sparking due to labels written in pencil. The ‘trouble-shooting’ of microwave procedures requires an understanding of the nature of the heating process and of the procedure in question. In order to achieve this, the development and application of ‘trouble-shooting’ charts for commonly used procedures is both recommended and illustrated.
KeywordsMicrowave Irradiation Microwave Oven Glass Container Heat Process Tissue Component
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