Improve spinal cord and brain slice preparation with the Compresstome® vibratome (Sponsored Content)

Improve spinal cord and brain slice preparation with the Compresstome® vibratome

For many of you who are devoted to pain research, it’s likely that you need to make tissue slices of the brain or spinal cord. What do you use for making healthy lives slices for electrophysiology ? What do you use for creating smooth, thin sections for immuno?

Compresstome® tissue slicers are affordable, compact, and produce healthier live spinal cord slices compared to other market vibratomes. Explore our product line here.

We’d like to introduce you to a revolutionary tissue slicer, called the Compresstome®, which is designed, patented and manufactured by Precisionary Instrusments in Boston, MA. Visit us at to explore the entire product line of Compresstomes®. If you mention this blog in your quote request, we will give a discount!

Who are we?

We are creators of the Compresstome® and are scientists and engineers in neuroscience research. This tissue slicer was made to help researchers obtain better quality slices for live and fixed tissue. In neurobiology, the Compresstome® has been used to successfully slice:

  • Brain tissue (fixed and fresh)
  • Spinal cord (fixed and fresh)
  • Muscle (fixed and fresh)

In particular, our Compresstome® has been used by neuroscientists around the world for cutting brain and spinal cord tissue. We partner with the Allen Institute for brain research. You can find out more about methods and recipes from BrainSliceMethods:


What makes the Compresstome® tissue slicer so beneficial to pain research?

The Compresstome® is one of the highest quality tissue slicers on the market. You can achieve slice thickness ranging from 4 µm – 1000 µm for fresh or fixed tissue. Both fresh and fixed tissue can be cut with one machine—the buffer tray and blade holders are interchangeable. Here are some additional key features of the Compresstome®:

  • High quality slices: variety of oscillation and speed settings helps cut through fibrous spinal cord and brainstem slices
  • Agarose embedding: Easy and quick protocol that prevents tissue shearing.
  • Improved slice health: Highest cell count on fresh tissue for electrophysiology.
  • Chattermark free: Smoother sections for better immunohistochemistry stains.
  • Fully automated: Serial sectioning results in the fastest cutting experience. Cuts 5X faster than other market vibratomes.
  • Cost: Most affordable vibratomes on the market. Contact us for a quote and we’ll give you a discount if you mention this post on Pain Researcher!
  • Rental Program: We are the only vibratome company to offer rent-to-own or monthly lease of the Compresstome® so that you can test it out on experiments before committing to buy.

Acute brain slice from an 18-month-old mouse made with the Compresstome® VF-300-0Z slicer, showing numerous healthy neurons for patch-clamp electrophysiology.

Mouse hippocampus slice made with the Compresstome® VF-300-0Z slicer. Smooth, even surfaces allow for the best immunohistochemistry staining.

We Support Pain Research!

We are a group of scientists and engineers at Precisionary Instruments who highly value neuroscience research. We understand that electrophysiology is challenging, so we designed the Compresstome® to yield fresh, healthy tissue slices with a greater number of live neurons for your experiments. To cut fixed tissue, the slicer is appropriate for immunohistochemistry and in-situ hybridization.

To support you, we have developed protocols for slicing spinal cord and brain tissue (both fixed and live slices). Check them out here:

In addition, we have a full list of references where labs have used the Compresstome® to successfully complete their research.

Finally, we have a full line of training videos to help you see the Compresstome® in action, and to help you get started:

How do we compare to other market vibratomes? See the difference!

One of the most frequently asked questions that we get is: “What is the advantage of the Compresstome® compared to other slicers?” The vast majority of the time, our customers are on the fence about purchasing either a Compresstome® or another market vibrating microtome.

We want to provide you with some empirical research and tests we ran in the lab to visually show how the results of tissue cut with the Compresstome® compare to sections made with another leading vibrating microtome on the market.

For our experiments, we took fixed brains from adult mice and cut 50-µm thick sections using a Compresstome® VF-300-0Z slicer. The sections we got are shown as follows:

Slices cut with the Compresstome® VF-300-0Z vibratome

These images were taken at low magnification image (10X) with a bright field microscope at the edge of mouse brain tissue. Note that the edges are even, without curling or unevenly cut thicknesses (A). In panel (B), we took images at higher magnification (40X) of another brain region depicting a close-up view of the tissue edge using the emboss filter, which best shows the 3D surface characteristics. The Compresstome® helps preserve tissue architecture, and the agarose embedding material does not infiltrate the tissue. The surface of the tissue has even texture, with no chattermarks, and remains smooth for immunohistochemical staining.

Now, we also sectioned 50-µm thick brain slices from the same aged mouse using a leading market brand vibrating microtome. For the comparison we set the cutting parameters to the same oscillation of 4.0 as that used on the Compresstome® VF-300-0Z, and speed settings of 5.0 - 7.0 which were equivalent in speed to that used with the Compresstome. Here are the results:

Slices cut with another market vibratome

Although we got workable slices for immunohistochemistry, we noticed that the edges were uneven in many sections (panels A and B). There was a gradient of tissue thickness, which only was resolved with much slower cutting speeds. Often, we got “thick & thin” alternating slices.

The biggest difference between slices made with the Compresstome® and the other microtome was found at high magnification—chattermarks! “Chattermarks” are also known as vibrating artifacts, and appear as little ripples on the slice surface. This “rippling” effect results in uneven protein staining during immunological processes, and is to be avoided. Explore the rest of the results here.

Got Questions? Ask Us Here!

We would be delighted to hear from you! Post your questions and comments to this blog, and we will respond. Or you can contact us at

Find Out More:

Feel free to contact us, and we are happy to hear from you!
Phone: 617-682-0586
Quote Request:
We respond to all quote requests within one day. If you mention this blog in your quote request, we will give a discount.

Thank you for your sponsorship @compresstome. I think pain researchers will benefit greatly from knowing more about your Compresstome slicer.

Do you recommend any specific kinds of blades to use with your device? I’ve recently begun to use ceramic blades because of their sharpness and durability. I know that some also use sapphire blades. Can these be used with your slicer?

Also, the cutting tank looks to be made of plastic. Pain researchers are increasingly working with viral vectors, which require a decontamination after the procedure (depending on the virus). Is the buffer tank compatible with disinfectants such as 10% bleach or Virkon?

@jordangmccall I saw that you are using the Compresstome in your new lab. Can you tell us about your experience?

We like the compresstome for live tissue, but we also use it for fixed tissue. Verdict is still out as to whether we will continue using it on fixed sections. To that end though, we bought two ‘cutting tanks’ one for live and one for PFA fixed to avoid contamination. There is also an autoclavable version available, which is likely a good idea for decontamination purposes. Though we will, we have not used it on samples expressing virus. No sure on blade compatibility, but we use Personna Platinum blades and so far so good! Hope that helps…it’s great for live, adult tissue.

@jordangmccall Thanks so much for the quick and helpful response! Glad to hear it’s working well for you. I used it during the summer for live tissue and it was superior to the Leica 1000 and easier to use. It did require a change in my preparation though (with the agarose embedding).

Hello! These are great questions, I’d love to answer them.

Cutting Blades:

  • We highly recommend stainless steel Personna double-edged blades, but only those that come in a red package. We actually tested out 8 different types/brands of stainless steel blades in our R&D labs, and the Personna blades out-performed all other types.

  • Specifically, we sell the cutting blades, and they are all conveniently located in our online e-Store. Here’s the link:

  • For delicate tissue (especially live spinal cord slices), we do recommend ceramic blades as well. We get ours custom made by Cadence, and offer them on our e-Store here:

  • So what’s the advantage of steel blades vs. ceramic blades? The differences are mainly in 1) how long each blade can be used, and 2) expense. Steel blades are exchanged more frequently, and a single blade can last for about 3 tissue samples. Ceramic blades, in contrast, can last 3 weeks or more if you are careful. In terms of expense, steel blades are much cheaper, and ceramic blades are more expensive. So there are benefits and disadvantages to both types of blades.

  • Sapphire diamond blades: Yes, we do recommend these blades, but because of their extremely high cost, we don’t carry them in our e-Store. These are best used for cutting highly fibrous fresh tissues, such as samples from human brain or other tissues that are highly myelinated.

So there you have it! Now you know what specific blades to use with the Compresstome tissue slicer, and the reasons for each type of blade.

Compresstome Team

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Regarding the buffer tray:

The buffer tray that comes with every Compresstome is made of high-quality, durable Lexan polycarbonate. These can be cleaned with 10% bleach, 70% ethanol, and Virkon (a disinfectant). We only recommend not using acetone to clean these trays.

Jordan McCall is completely correct–We have engineered and designed a new stainless steel buffer tray that is autoclavable. Therefore, researchers can fully decontaminate the tray after each procedure.

The cool part is: the buffer tray is removable and can be interchanged between experiments. Labs can order two buffer trays, then have one tray for fixed tissues and one tray for live tissue cutting.

Finally, you may want to put ice around the buffer tray when cutting fresh tissue. So we designed and created a double-wall buffer tray for this exact purpose. You can find the link here:

Here’s an image of the double-wall buffer tray:

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Thanks, Alex and Jordan!
Over the years, we have received a LOT of comments and feedback saying that the Compresstome produces healthier, improved spinal cord slices for electrophysiology.

We are glad to hear that you have experienced the same.

Compresstome Team

That’s great @compresstome. I really like how you’re responding to customer needs.

Hello everyone! Here’s another common question we receive at Precisionary Instruments:

How do I hold down slices in my recording/imaging chamber?

Although we sell Compresstomes and other tissue slicer equipment, we have a whole team of scientists and engineers to help our customers with these types of issues. The vast majority of our customers are researchers.

Here is the quick answer:

  1. Harp: Use a stainless steel “harp” to hold down acute spinal cord slices for electrophysiology and imaging experiments. We have had customers recommend the following place to order harps in all sorts of shapes and sizes:

  1. Poly-lysine coverslips: Not many people know about this research “trick” for helping slices stay immobile during experiments. Take some miniature round coverslips, such as these:

…Soak the coverslips overnight in 10% ethanol (this helps clean the surfaces so that tissue will adhere better later on). Then spread out coverslips on a paper towel or large petri dish. Pipette poly-lysine solution onto each coverslip. Make sure that the surface tension holds on each coverslip, such that the solution doesn’t “break” and spill everywhere. The poly-lysine solution we use is:

…Incubate the coverslips for a few hours, until the poly-lysine solution has evaporated. There will be a thin layer of poly-lysine left on each coverslip surface. when you put a spinal cord tissue slice on it, use a kimwipe and soak up the extra solution so that the tissue touches the top surface of the coverslip.

You can now place your slice-on-coverslip into your recording chamber and do your experiments! The HUGE advantage of this poly-lysine coverslip method is that there is no damage to the surface of the tissue slice from a harp. The entire surface is smooth and free for patch-clamping. In addition, the coverslip will also hold the tissue and make it immobile for experiments like calcium imaging.

We hope that this helps! Please let us know if you have any questions!

Compresstome Team