[Histonet] Ultram Fixative

John Kiernan jkiernan <@t> uwo.ca
Wed Mar 3 14:36:48 CST 2010

According to the MSDS sheet at the web address provided by Cindy Dubois, this solution contains water, sodium acetate, zinc chloride, phenol and citric acid - concentrations not disclosed; pH not stated. Another MSDS for ultrum at http://siri.org/msds/f2/bzr/bzrjb.html lists the ingredients as 1,5-pentanedial (that's glutaraldehyde) 3%, zinc sulphate.7H2O 1%, "carboxy hydroxide" (=??!, but 0.04%) and "buffers" 2.0%. 
Solutions containing glutaraldehyde and phenol are used as disinfectants; all kinds of additives, not the ones listed for ultrum, are included to increase shelf life and reduce the corrosive effect on metals (see eg Schattner 1978 US Patent 410301).  Phenol accelerates protein cross-linking by formaldehyde, and phenol-formaldehyde fixatives were sometimes used in the late 1980s to early 1990s (see Hopwood et al 1989 Histochem. J. 21:228-234). This mixture never became popular. A Scopus search shows only 6 articles citing the original publication.
Glutaraldehyde fixation can be bad news for light microscopy because it leaves all parts of the tissue bristling with free aldehyde groups. These can bind some dyes, are Schiff-positive and can bind proteins such as antibodies. Glutaraldehyde also induces fluorescence (not, strictly speaking autofluorescence, but just as unwanted). There are various clever ways of overcoming these undesirable actions of glutaraldehyde (eg Kasten & Lala 1975 Stain Technol. 50: 197-201; Tagliaferro et al 1997 J. Neurosci. Methods 77(2):191-197). 
There is no shortage of stable fixative mixtures with known composition and ingredients whose actions on tissues have been quite thoroughly studied, and which don't corrode metals. 
John Kiernan
Anatomy, UWO
London, Canada
= = =
----- Original Message -----
From: Cindy DuBois <integrated.histo <@t> gmail.com>
Date: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 12:17
Subject: [Histonet] Ultram Fixative
To: histonet <@t> lists.utsouthwestern.edu

> "Ultram" Fixative is actually Ultrum Fixative and is available thru
> American Mastertech:
> http://www.americanmastertech.com/store/main.aspx?p=ItemDetailStyles&item=FXULTGAL
> Cindy Dubois
> Message: 20
> Date: Tue, 2 Mar 2010 20:08:23 -0500
> From: Robert Richmond <rsrichmond <@t> gmail.com>
> Subject: [Histonet] Re: Ultram fixative
> To: histonet <@t> lists.utsouthwestern.edu
> Message-ID:
> <abea52a61003021708q3a5e96a5l7d23d18732547c01 <@t> mail.gmail.com>Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
> Richard Cartun asks >>We have a clinic that is fixing tissue in
> "Ultram". I have never heard of it. Can someone educate me about
> "Ultram"?<<
> I can't Google any evidence for an Ultram fixative. Ultram is a trade
> name for tramadol, an opioid analgesic.
> Either somebody is confused, or you've got somebody involved in
> dubious drug transactions. Can anybody in the clinic shed any 
> light on
> the matter?
> Bob Richmond
> Samurai Pathologist
> Knoxville TN
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