Storage-associated artefact in equine muscle biopsy samples

Rachael Stanley, C. Maile, R. J. Piercy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Reasons for performing study: Muscle biopsy is increasingly used in equine veterinary practice for investigating exertional, inflammatory or immune mediated myopathies and unexplained muscle atrophy. Although formalin-fixed samples are often used, for complete evaluation, fresh-frozen tissue is required. Freezing muscle in veterinary practice is impractical: samples sent to specialist laboratories for processing are therefore susceptible to delays, potentially leading to artefact and compromising histological interpretation.

Hypothesis: Altered temperature, duration and hydration status influence the severity of storage-induced artefact in equine muscle.

Methods: Skeletal muscle obtained immediately post euthanasia was divided into 6 independent samples from each of 8 horses. One sample per horse was frozen immediately in isopentane precooled in liquid nitrogen. Additional samples were stored in conditions designed to mimic possible situations encountered in practice, including increased storage times, temperature and hydration status. Following storage, stored samples were frozen as before. Cryosections were stained using haematoxylin and eosin and ranked for artefact on 2 occasions by 2 blinded observers. The best samples were processed subsequently with a panel of routine stains and immunolabelled for collagen V to enable the measurement of minimum fibre diameters.

Results: Both prolonged storage and increased hydration resulted in more storage-associated artefact. Samples stored for 24 h chilled on dry gauze were ranked higher than those stored on damp gauze; however, a panel of routinely-used histochemical staining techniques was unaffected by chilled 24 h storage. There was no significant effect of storage on mean fibre diameter; however, both chilled dry and damp storage for 24 h caused a significant increase in fibre-size variability.

Conclusion and potential relevance: Caution should be exercised when interpreting fibre size profiles in shipped samples. Equine muscle biopsy samples are optimally shipped in dry gauze, sealed in plastic containers and shipped on ice packs to be processed within 24 h and can thus be interpreted by the receiving laboratory with minimal artefact.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-86
Number of pages5
JournalEquine Veterinary Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes

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