Diaphonization is the art/science of staining the bones and cartilage in a wet specimen. The process was first developed in 1977 by the scientists Dingerkus and Uhler, who originally called it “clearing and staining”. The “clearing” part was making the specimen clear by bathing it in trypsin, a digestive enzyme that slowly breaks down the flesh. The specimen is then soaked in multiple batches of bone, cartilage, and/or muscle dyes (the “staining”). The most common dyes are alizarin red and alcian blue. Alcian blue stains cartilage, alizarin red stains bone, and muscle is stained purple.
Diaphonization is almost always used on small specimens under one foot in length because the process takes such a long time. A large rat could take up to six months to complete. Amphibians, fish, and reptiles are particularly suited to this process because their tissues are usually too delicate to be dissected. Using diaphonization on these species is the best way to look at their inner structures without changing or harming them.
We have one diaphonized specimen in our collection so far that we’ll be posting soon!