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What is Tissue Homogenization?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Tissue homogenization is a process used to prepare tissue samples for certain types of studies. It involves encouraging the cells to lyse, or break apart to release their contents. Devices designed for tissue homogenization are used in many lab facilities and specialized techniques may be used for certain types of cells, as for example when cells are difficult to break up because of their structure. Different labs have specific protocols for handling this process, based on standards established by laboratory supervisors.

One of the simplest and most common tissue homogenization techniques involves running the tissue through a blender. This breaks the cells up and creates a uniform mass. Cells can also be ground with a mortar and pestle or subjected to chemical treatments that rupture the cell walls. In the homogenization process, the contents of the cells are released and float freely, including organelles in the cells along with the fluids that move inside the cells.

The homogenized tissue can be spun in a centrifuge to separate it into layers, allowing people to purify the sample to extract the components they want. Tissue homogenization can be used to collect DNA samples, enzymes, specific organelles, and other things that may be present inside a cell. It is performed in a controlled environment to avoid introducing impurities such as tissue from other sources. Samples that have been homogenized can be stored for future testing in some cases, depending on the tissue and how the sample has been used.

Medical testing can require the use of tissue homogenization to isolate compounds of interest in a sample, and this technique is also used in scientific research. Special care is taken when working with samples known to contain hazards like highly virulent viruses to protect the lab technician and reduce the risk of contamination. Research on such materials is usually performed in very secure facilities designed to keep samples safe inside and the general population safe outside.

Homogenization is an important part of lab protocols for a variety of procedures. It is a form of destructive testing, because the sample must be ruined to homogenize it. Laboratory personnel can take a snip from a larger tissue sample for homogenization to leave intact tissue behind for repeat tests, examination under the microscope, and other activities. Once the sample has been analyzed, the results can be carefully logged and the leftover material can be disposed of in a biohazard container.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By seag47 — On Jun 29, 2011

The hospital where I work keeps several types of grinders on hand. Different types of tissue require different homogenization methods, so it is good to keep a variety of grinders in stock.

One such type of grinder used to homogenize tissue is the kind with a hollow handle. This handle is meant to be packed full of ice. The ice will lower the amount of stress placed on cells, maintain their visibility and increase the amount of viable cells we can obtain from the sample. Ice-packed grinders are best for heart, liver, and intestine tissue.

Tough tissue needs a tapered tissue grinder. The tissue of the muscles, lung, and heart require stronger friction to break them apart. Tapered tissue grinders are glass-on-glass. The long taper design minimizes effort while maximizing efficiency.

By wavy58 — On Jun 29, 2011

I got to see a centrifuge perform tissue homogenization when our health class took a field trip to the lab. The idea behind it is kind of simple.

Several tubes of tissue samples are placed in the centrifuge, which only runs for a few minutes on a small motor that doesn't heat up the samples very much. Beads are placed in the tubes with the samples.

As the centrifuge whirs around, balls agitate the sample tubes. This makes the beads inside the tubes bounce around and act as grinding agents. This is how a centrifuge separates tissues.

By StarJo — On Jun 28, 2011

I work in a hospital laboratory. We often use a mortar and pestle for tissue homogenization.

The grinding action with a mortar and pestle is more gentle than some other tissue homogenization methods. Using this method allows us to preserve organelles, large molecules, and viruses.

In addition to keeping the specimens more intact, a mortar and pestle also produces less friction. This, in turn, produces less heat than other methods, and this also helps us preserve the specimens we need.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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