Søren Juhl

How to detect gold, silver and mercury in human brain and other tissues by autometallographic silver amplification

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Gold, silver, mercury and zinc bind chemically to sulphide or selenide ions and create crystal lattices that can be detected in histological sections by a silver amplification technique called autometallography (AMG). The technique specifically magnifies such nanometer-sized catalytic crystals. For each metal, a detailed protocol has been worked out. If several different AMG metals/metal molecules are present in the same tissue, it is possible to distinguish one from another. The AMG technique is based on the capability of small crystal lattices of the aforementioned metals and metal molecules to initiate AMG silver amplification. Electrons released from adhering hydroquinone molecules reduce silver ions that are integrally connected with the crystal lattices. In this manner, particles consisting of only a few atoms of, say, gold, or molecules of mercury selenide (Figure 1), can be silver amplified to a size at which they can be detected in the electron microscope, or even further to dimensions that can be observed in the light microscope. Thus the AMG technique opens up the possibility of visualizing gold, e.g. in the nervous system of rheumatic patients who have been treated with aurothiomalate. Mercury can similarly be visualized in tissues from individuals who have been exposed to mercury, either through leaching from amalgam dental fillings, through eating fish, or by occupational exposure, and silver in the central (CNS) and peripheral nervous systems (PNS) and other tissues from individuals exposed to silver in one form or another. In the future, the possibility of demonstrating vesicular zinc, a particular pool of endogenous zinc that is found in terminals of zinc-enriched neurons (ZEN neurons), might prove valuable for pathological interpretation of diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. The vesicular zinc, present in some of the synaptic vesicles of ZEN neuron terminals, is most impressively demonstrated by AMG in telencephalic structures. It is becoming increasingly indisputable that vesicular zinc is related to synaptic activity influencing or modulating facilitatory synapses. ZEN neurons are probably a sub-population of glutaminergic neurons. A technique for the post-mortem demonstration of vesicular zinc in terminals of ZEN neurons in human brains is therefore urgently required.
TidsskriftNeuropathology and Applied Neurobiology
Sider (fra-til)454-67
Antal sider14
StatusUdgivet - 1994

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