Scanning Microscopy


The heart is a muscular pump kept together by a network of extracellular matrix components. An increase in collagens, as in chronic congestive heart failure (CHF), is thought to have a negative effect on cardiac compliance and, thus, on the clinical condition. Conventional electron microscopy allows for the study of cellular and extracellular components and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) can put these structures in three-dimensional perspective. However, in order to study extracellular matrix components in relation to cells, immunoelectron microscopy is superior. We have used this technique in our studies on heart failure. Heart specimens were fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde and 0.1% glutaraldehyde in sodium cacodylate buffer, dehydrated by the method of progressive lowering of temperature and embedded in LR Gold plastic. Immunolabeling could be achieved with different sized gold-conjugated secondary antibodies or protein-A gold conjugates. Depending on the objective, ultra small gold (USG) conjugates or a regular probe size can be used. Labeling efficiency could be increased by bridging antibodies. The double and triple staining procedures were based on single staining methods using one-and two-face labeling. The choice of antibodies and gold conjugates depended on the objectives. Immunoelectron microscopy, using multiple labeling, allowed a detailed study of the organization of the extracellular matrix and its relationship with cardiac myocytes. This may prove to be a useful tool for the study of chronic heart failure.

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