What are the types of cryostat blades?
This week, we’d like to do a thorough review of the different types of cryostat cutting blades, to help all of our scientists find the best microtome blade for their research and clinical cryostats. Cryostat blades can be grouped based on the following features:
- Disposable vs. permanent blades
- Low profile vs. high profile blades
Disposable vs. Permanent Cryostat Blades
Permanent microtome cutting blades are made of tempered steel and look like a “slab blade” (Figure 1). These are steel microtome knives that are meant to be used for an extremely long period of time with the cryostat. Thus, they are dubbed “permanent.” Typically, permanent blades are used in histology for cutting paraffin-embedded tissue blocks, but they may also be used in freeze cryostats. Note that a different knife holder may be needed to accommodate and hold the permanent steel blades. Permanent blades have a longer life of sharpness, but only a professional can sharpen the knife once it gets dull. Permanent blades are thicker than disposable blades, and because they are also made of tempered steel, they are more durable.
The latest cryostats use disposable blades, which are much easier to handle and often provide superior cut quality. Disposable blades conveniently come in blade-dispensing boxes. These types of blades come in low profile and high profiles types (see below). Although they are disposable, these blades can be used for cutting several samples because the blade can be moved along the knife holder to expose unused portions of the blade for cutting. This helps create frozen sections without striations, distortions, or chattermarks. Disposable blades are thinner, so they are sharper and provide a cleaner, faster cut on the cryostat.
In terms of cost, a single permanent cryostat blade will cost about several hundred dollars. Disposable blades cost a little over a hundred dollars for a pack of 50. Because of the cost of professional sharpening needed for permanent blades, in the end, the cost of disposable blades comes out to be about the same as permanent blades.
Low Profile vs. High Profile Cryostat Blade
Both low- and high-profile blades refer to disposable blades for cryostat cutting. High profile blades are taller than low- profile knives (Figure 2). Standard low profile blades are used for routine thin tissue samples. This is typically great for pathology and histology facilities, biologists cutting thin tissue samples for immunohistochemistry or H&E staining, and freeze biopsy sections. High profile blades are good for thicker sections. There are also heavy duty microtome blades that are recommended for difficult-to-section samples like skeletal muscle tissue (i.e., any types of tissue that are highly fibrous or contain muscle).
Overall, there is not a lot of difference in the quality of cryostat frozen sections made with low vs. high profile blades. What matters most is that you use the correct type of blade that matches the blade holder. So check your knife holder to confirm what type of blade it supports.
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If you have any questions about specific types of cryostat blades, please contact us! We are happy to help and to guide you in the right direction for experimental success.
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