Scanning Microscopy


Correlating the surface appearances of certain features with their internal structure is made particularly difficult in the human placenta by the complex three-dimensional branching pattern of the villous tree. This places a possible limitation on the use of the scanning electron microscope in this field, both for basic research purposes and as a tool in pathological diagnosis. To help overcome this problem, a technique for handling individual placental villi has been devised. By attaching single villi to glass pipette tips it has proved possible to scan the villi, embed them in resin and then section them in a known pre-determined orientation. Exact correlations between the surface appearances and the internal structure, as seen with either the light or transmission electron microscope, can then be drawn. This paper describes the technique and, using an example based on syncytial sprouts in early pregnancy, illustrates the precision afforded by the method.

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