[Histonet] Alcian blue (was "Suggestions for staining ground substances ...")

John Kiernan jkiernan at uwo.ca
Thu Jul 2 01:09:56 CDT 2015

Dear Histonetters,

I recently replied to a question about staining extracellular "ground substance" with alcian blue. Here is some more information.

With the alcian blue-PAS sequence it is necessary to have a good alcian blue dye - the same as or functionally equivalent to the original alcian blue 8G. For the PAS-alcian blue sequence, other alcian blues may also be OK. 

Alcian blue from a batch certified (or rechecked) by the Biological Stain Commission (BSC) 5 or fewer years ago should be good for either procedure. 

Of the dyes commonly used to make up staining solutions for microscopy, alcian blue is the only only one that sometimes deteriorates, unpredictably and often quite quickly, as a dry powder in the bottle. Some alcian blue powders from the 1950s are still OK, but some very much younger ones are no good 5+ years after passing the BSC's analytical and staining tests. 

John Kiernan
London, Canada
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