Name: big moose
Why does a scientist need to stain a specimen before examining it under a
Most specimens are fairly transparent under the microscope,
with the exception of things like green plant cells, and
are very difficult to see against a plain white background.
The stains add color to the picture, making the image much
easier to see. The stains actually work by fixing themselves to
various structures on or in the cell to be observed, the
exact structure determined by the staining process used.
Very true! It is amazing how transparent cells are if they
are observed without being stained. It is worth mentioning
that the varieties of stains available are numerous, and
are a vital tool to scientists to determine what the
cellular components are made of... Starch, protein, and
even nucleic acids can be brought out using special stains.
A general stain, like TBO, may be used in classroom labs.
This reacts with different parts of the cells to create many
different shades of red, blue and green. The difference in
colour and staining intensity gives a good idea what the
cell parts are made of... A creative use of two or more
stains can give a good deal of information to the microscopist.
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Update: June 2012