Computer-Aided Reconstruction of Serial Sections

  • David L. Balkwill


Thin sectioning probably has been used more than any other method to prepare biological specimens for transmission electron microscopy. The enduring popularity of this technique is hardly surprising, considering its ability to reveal intracellular features at high resolution and its compatibility with a wide range of sophisticated staining procedures. Yet, an inherent drawback of thin sectioning is the fact that a single section represents only a very small portion (essentially a two-dimensional plane) of each cell through which it passes. The information provided by such a section can be deceptive or misleading if it is not interpreted within the context of the entire cell and in view of the direction in which the section traveled through that cell. This is especially true if (as in most thin sectioning studies) one views only a limited number of randomly cut sections. For example, the micrograph in Figure la shows a section that appears to pass through four independent cells. Subsequent serial sections (Figure lb,c), on the other hand, demonstrate that two of these “cells” actually are portions of a single spiral-shaped cell that was transected twice. Similar, but often far more intricate, deceptions may be encountered when randomly cut sections are used to examine intracellular ultrastructure.


Serial Section Cell Feature Lipid Body Stereo Pair Euglena Gracilis 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • David L. Balkwill
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological ScienceFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeFloridaUSA

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