Gelatin embedding for the preparation of thermoreversible or delicate scaffolds for histological analysis

Veronika Hruschka, Alexandra Meinl, Aram Saeed, Racha Cheikh Al Ghanami, Heinz Redl, Kevin Shakesheff, Susanne Wolbank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Thermoreversible hydrogels for tissue engineering (TE) purposes have gained increased attention in recent years as they can be combined with cells and drugs and directly injected into the body. Following the fate of transplanted cells in situ is essential in characterizing their distribution and survival, as well as the expression of specific markers or cell-matrix interactions. Existing histological embedding methods, such as paraffin wax embedding, can mechanically damage some biomaterials during processing. In this study, we describe a broadly applicable preparation protocol that allows the handling of delicate, thermoreversible scaffolds for histological sectioning. The gelatin solution permits the embedding of samples at 37 °C, which suits the solid phase of most TE scaffolds. A thermoreversible scaffold of polycaprolactone microparticles, combined with poly(polyethylene glycol methacrylate ethyl ether) and containing human adipose-derived stem cells, was prepared for histology by an initial gelatin embedding step in addition to the standard cryosectioning and paraffin processing protocols. Sections were evaluated by hematoxylin eosin staining and immunostaining for human vimentin. The gelatin embedding retained the scaffold particles and permitted the complete transfer of the construct. After rapid cooling, the solid gelatin blocks could be cryosectioned and paraffin infiltrated. In contrast to direct cryosectioning or paraffin infiltration, the extended protocol preserved the scaffold structure as well as the relevant cell epitopes, which subsequently allowed for immunostaining of human cells within the material. The gelatin embedding method proposed is a generalizable alternative to standard preparations for histological examination of a variety of delicate samples.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)041001
JournalBiomedical Materials
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013

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