What is it about?

This review summarizes the function, structure, and chemistry of the myelin sheaths of axons; discusses the mechanisms of several staining techniques using inorganic compounds, dyes, and antibodies; and provides technical instructions for 13 staining methods for normal and degenerating myelin.

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Why is it important?

This publication provides instructions and explanations for a wide variety of methods for staining myelin (normal or degenerating). These methods have their various advantages and disadvantages, and can be used in research or as "special stains" in histopathology. Staining methods that detect the phospholipids of normal myelin are useful for frozen sections, whereas stains that bind to basic proteins show myelin in paraffin sections. Myelin sheaths degenerating after axotomy contain cholesterol esters, which can be selectively stained by the Marchi method or identified by virtue of their birefringence.


In paraffin sections, normal myelin can be stained with either luxol fast blue MBS or the iron(III) complex of eriochrome cyanine R. The latter is preferable because the dye is always available (many commercial uses) and the staining procedure takes less than 30 minutes. Both techniques involve binding of an anionic dye-metal complex to myelin basic protein.

Dr John A Kiernan
Western University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Histochemistry of Staining Methods for Normal and Degenerating Myelin in the Central and Peripheral Nervous Systems, Journal of Histotechnology, January 2007, Maney Publishing,
DOI: 10.1179/014788807794775675.
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