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The A to Z of Histological Stains

Posted in: Microscopy and Imaging
Artistic colorful stains to depict different stains used in histology

With the use of stains and dyes, histology allows researchers to visualize particular tissue structures, chemical elements within cells, tissues, and even microorganisms. The advent and evolution of histology follows that of microscopy as outlined in ‘A (very) Short History of Histology’. Histology, which means ‘tissue science’ became an academic discipline in its own right in the 19th century, after the French anatomist, Bichat, introduced the concept of tissue in 1801. Karl Meyer, a German anatomist, however, was the first to coin the term “histology” in 1819.

Historically, histologists relied on readily available chemicals. Although some older staining methods have since been abandoned because the chemicals proved to be toxic (YIKES!), many, which are still in use today, have stood the test of time. They have proven to be efficient, accurate, and less complex.

BitesizeBio has already covered some of these staining procedures in depth. The aim of this article is to provide you with a brief overview of many of the available histological stains. Although by no means exhaustive, the table below gives a rundown of the top dyes and stains dominating today’s world of medical/diagnostic histology.

Happy Staining!

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Did we miss any histological stains that you commonly use in your lab? Comment below.

Want to know more about histology? Visit the Bitesize Bio Histology Hub for tips and trick for all your histology experiments.


  1. Dann, O. et al. (1971). Trypanocide Diamidine des 2?Phenyl?benzofurans, 2?Phenyl?indens und 2?Phenyl?indols. Justus Liebigs Ann. Chem., 749: 68–89.
  2. Bielschowsky, M. (1908) Eine Modifikation meines Silverimprägnationsverfahrenszur Darstellung der Neurofibrillen. J für Psychologie Neurologie., 12:135–137
  3. Bennhold, H. (1923) Über die Ausscheidung intravenös einverleibten Kongorotes bei den verschiedensten Erkrankungen insbesondere bei Amyloidosis. Arch Klin Med., 142: 32–46
  4. Gram, H. C. J., and Friedlaender, C. (1884) Ueber die isolirte Färbung der Schizomyceten: in Schnitt-und Trockenpräparaten. Theodor Fischer’s medicinischer Buchhandlung.
  5. Titford, M. (2005) The long history of hematoxylin. Biotechnic & histochemistry 80.2 (2005): 73-78.
  6. Fischer, E. (1876). Eosin als Tinctionsmittel für mikroskopische Präparate. Archiv für mikroskopische Anatomie, 12(1), 349-352.
  7. Wissowsky, A. (1877) Ueber das Eosin als Reagens auf Hämoglobin und die Bildung von Blutgefässen und Blutkörperchen bei Säugethier- und Hühnerembryonen. Archiv für mikroskopische Anatomie., 13: 479–496.
  8. Klüver, H., and Barrera, E. (1953) A Method for the Combined Staining of Cells and Fibers in the Nervous System. J Neuropath Exp Neurol., 12: 400–403.
  9. French, R. W. (1926).  Fat stains. Stain Tech., 1: 79.
  10. Perls, M. (1867) Nachweis von Eisenoxyd in gewissen Pigmenten. Virchows Arch., 39: 42–48.
  11. Perkin, W. H., and Church, A. H. (1856) Jahresbericht ueber die Fortschritte der Chemie und Verwandter Theile Anderer Wissenschaften. J Chem Soc., 8: 48.
  12. Masson, P. ( 1929) Some histological methods: trichrome staining and their preliminary technique. J Tech Methods., 12:75–90.
  13. Van Gieson, I. (1889) Laboratory notes of technical methods for the nervous system. (Haematoxylin, acid fuchsin and picric acid as nervous tissue stain). N Y Med J., 50:57–60.
  14. Verhoeff F.H. (1908) Some New Staining Methods of Wide Applicability. JAMA., 50:876–877.
  15. Warthin, A.S., and Chronister, A.C. (1920). A more rapid and improved method of demonstrating spirochetes in tissues (Warthin and Starry’s cover-glass method). Am J Syphilis., 4: 97–103.

For Additional Reading:

Suvarna SK, Layton C, Bancroft JD (2013) Bancrofts’s theory and practice of histological techniques. London: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

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  1. King Ahmed on March 6, 2020 at 6:41 pm

    Really 100% already understood thanks my friend for your helping 👍👍👍👍

  2. Linda Enns on November 18, 2019 at 7:23 pm

    and aniline blue for callose.

  3. Kiriella PA on December 1, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    It is very good and useful article.

  4. Carol Bayles on October 12, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Trypan blue, the common live / dead stain for cells, also fluoresces red when bound to proteins. Can be useful to stain otherwise unlabeled cells for confocal microscopy. Actually many of these dyes may fluoresce, H&E certainly do.

  5. Alex Rajewski on September 6, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    Oh noes, you left out the classic steins for plant tissues! Phloroglucinol for lignin, safranin and fast green or astral blue for…well just about everything, and iodine for starch

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