Back issues No.4 - 1999 / Review  

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Introduction to Immune Electron Microscopy -Principles, Methods and Applications in Dermatology-
Wen-Chieh Chen, Martin Schaller, Hans Christian Korting, Elfriede Januschke, Sarolta Karpati, Gerd Plewig
Dermatol Sinica 17: 282-299, 1999

Immune electron microscopy (IEM), first described by SJ Singer in 1959, has been successfully used in 1970s to localize different antigens specific to pemphigus vulgaris and bullous pemphigoid, respectively. Over the past two decades, development of new immunolabels (ultra-small colloidal gold particles smaller than 10 nm in diameter), new embedding materials (LR White, Lowicryl K4M, K11M, etc), and cryoultramicrotomy has made IEM among the most important tools for the study and diagnosis of skin diseases, especially for our better understanding of the ultra-structures of epidermal desmosome and skin basement membrane zone, their related bullous dermatoses as well as the corresponding tissue antigens. Here we discuss first the principles, methods/procedures and recent advancement of IEM, including the differences between pre-embedding vs. post-embedding IEM and their suitable indications. The application and use of IEM in the clinical investigation of some autoimmune subepidermal bullous dermatoses are then presented, with emphasis on the recent findings of the molecular structures of skin basement membrane zone.

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