Histology Special Stains: Carbohydrates

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Author: Tanisha N. Neely, HT (ASCP)
Reviewer: Carla Shoffeitt, MSM, HT(ASCP)

This course is the first in a series of courses that will explore special stains used in the clinical histology laboratory. Basic carbohydrate staining mechanisms and classifying carbohydrates will be discussed. The material presented details the chemistry, diagnostic application and staining protocols for special stains used to demonstrate carbohydrates in tissue samples.

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Continuing Education Credits


  • Explain basic staining mechanisms and the factors affecting dye binding.
  • Demonstrate a basic knowledge of carbohydrate classifications and the anatomic sites where certain types of carbohydrates may be detected.
  • Identify and troubleshoot special staining methods that are routinely used in the clinical histology laboratory to demonstrate carbohydrates in tissue samples.
  • Explain the clinical/diagnostic purpose for performing special staining procedures.

Course Outline

  • Introduction
      • Tissue Staining in the Histology Laboratory
      • The Biological Stain Commission
      • Which of the following is NOT a function of the Biological Stain Commission (BSC)?
  • Basic Staining Mechanisms
      • What Makes a Dye?
      • Factors That Affect Dye Binding
      • Acids, Bases, pH and Buffers
      • Basophilic and Acidophilic Staining
      • Oxidation and Reduction
      • Which of the following dye-binding factors is primarily responsible for reorganizing certain molecular structures in tissue samples so that they are m...
      • A staining solution with a pH of 5.5 would be considered _________.
  • Carbohydrate Classification and Tissue Detection
      • Carbohydrates
      • Classifying Carbohydrates
      • Monosaccharides
      • Polysaccharides
      • Mucopolysaccharides
      • Diagnostic Value of Demonstrating Mucopolysaccharides
      • ___________ is the primary polysaccharide demonstrated in animal/human tissue samples via histology staining techniques.
      • What are mucopolysaccharides most often referred to as?
  • Special Staining Methods Used to Demonstrate Carbohydrates in Tissue Samples
      • Periodic Acid-Schiff (PAS): Diagnostic Applications
      • Periodic acid-Shiff (PAS): Chemistry
      • Periodic acid-Shiff (PAS): Staining Protocol
      • Periodic Acid-Schiff (PAS) with Diastase: Diagnostic Applications
      • Periodic Acid-Schiff (PAS) with Diastase: Chemistry
      • Periodic Acid-Schiff (PAS) with Diastase: Staining Protocol
      • Periodic Acid-Schiff (PAS): Counterstaining with Hematoxylin
      • Periodic Acid-Schiff (PAS): Counterstaining with Fast Green
      • Mucicarmine: Diagnostic Applications
      • Mucicarmine: Chemistry
      • Mucicarmine: Staining Protocol
      • Alcian Blue: Diagnostic Applications
      • Alcian Blue: Chemistry
      • Alcian Blue pH 1.0 Staining Protocol
      • Alcian Blue pH 2.5 Staining Protocol
      • Colloidal Iron: Diagnostic Applications
      • Colloidal Iron: Chemistry
      • Colloidal Iron: Staining Protocol
      • Appropriate Controls for Carbohydrate Staining Methods
      • Which special staining technique is most widely used for the demonstration of glycogen in tissue samples?
      • What is the carminic acid that gives mucicarmine its rose red color is extracted from?
  • Using the Microwave for Special Staining Procedures
      • Microwaves in the Histopathology Laboratory
      • Tips for Using the Microwave for Special Staining Procedures
      • Safety Precautions for Microwave Usage
      • The container used to heat staining solutions in the microwave should be __________ .
  • References
      • References

Additional Information

Level of instruction: Intermediate

Intended Audience: Clinical laboratory histotechnologists and technicians,and other medical laboratory personnel who have an interest in this subject matter. This course is also appropriate for histology and clinical laboratory science students,  pathology residents, and practicing pathologists.
Author information: Tanisha N. Neely, HT(ASCP) is a global histology technical liaison for Covance Central Laboratory Services. Prior to this position, she worked in hospital laboratories in histology and microbiology departments. Ms. Neely attended Indiana University where she earned an associates degree in General Studies and a Certificate in Histotechnology.  She is a member of the National Society for Histotechnology and the Indiana Society for Histotechnology.
Reviewer information: Carla J. Shoffeitt, MSM, HT(ASCP) is the Manager of the Pathology Department of Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital of Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, Georgia. She holds a Master of Science Degree in Healthcare Management as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Troy University, Troy, Alabama. She is certified as a Histotechnician and has 25 years of experience in the field of Histology.
Course Description: This course is the first in a series of courses that will explore special stains used in the clinical histology laboratory.

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