The Histochemical Journal

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 793–797 | Cite as

The rationality and relative contribution of histochemical approaches to pharmacology and toxicology

  • E. D. Wachsmuth
Reviews and Papers


The contribution of histochemical investigations to pharmacology and toxicology has been questioned and the significance of results has been discussed in relation to the consumption of time and the expense of staff and equipment (Dayan, 1979). Without any doubt, one has to be cautious and critical when applying special histochemical techniques. However, there is a valuable place for the histochemical approach if one observes the following two precepts.
  1. (1)

    Histochemical techniques should only be used where the principal mechanism of action of a compound under investigation can be predicted and where they give more informative, specific and sensitive answers than routine histological methods

  2. (2)

    Histochemical and cytochemical methodology should be used only where other methods do not lead any further and where only special investigations in addition to routine toxicological investigations would give evidence about, and reasons for, the underlying pathological mechanisms.


In both cases, histochemical methodology should only be used for special types of toxicological investigations. In turn, the results observable with highly selective histochemical techniques allow us to understand minor and initially obscure staining patterns obtained in sections treated with routine, unselective stains such as Haematoxylin and Eosin and, thus, can broaden the scope for the microscopical detection of pharmacological and toxic effects during routine investigations.


Toxic Effect Eosin Staining Pattern Special Investigation Haematoxylin 
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Copyright information

© Chapman and Hall Ltd. 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. D. Wachsmuth
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Department, Pharmaceuticals DivisionCiba-Geigy LtdBasleSwitzerland

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