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    This manuscript reports a novel procedure to imaging growth plate chondrocytes by using confocal microscopy. The method is based on fixed undecalcified bone samples, in-block staining with eosin, epoxy resin embedding and grinding to obtain thick sections. It is simple, inexpensive and provides three-dimensional images of entire chondrocytes inside their native lacunae. Quantitative analysis of volume, shape and cytoplasm density of chondrocytes at different strata of the growth plate allowed to objectively grade chondrocytes of the growth plate in seven different clusters. These seven categories of chondrocytes were subsequently evaluated by immunohistochemistry of some well-defined molecular landmarks of chondrocyte differentiation. Furthermore, immunohistochemical analysis of proteins responsible for ionic changes and water transport allowing chondrocyte swelling during hypertrophy was also performed. Results obtained indicate that four subphases can be defined in the pre-hypertrophic zone and three subphases in the hypertrophic zone, a fact that raises that chondrocytes of the growth plate are less homogeneous than usually considered when different zones are defined according to subjective cell morphological criteria. Results in the present study provide a technological innovation and gives new insights into the complexity of the process of chondrocyte differentiation in the growth plate.


    Ángela Fernández-Iglesias, Rocío Fuente, Helena Gil-Peña, Laura Alonso-Duran, María García-Bengoa, Fernando Santos, José M López. A simple method based on confocal microscopy and thick sections recognizes seven subphases in growth plate chondrocytes. Scientific reports. 2020 Apr 24;10(1):6935

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    PMID: 32332842

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