Review: Visikol for Plant Biology

The very first direct observation of a cell was made by Robert Hooke in 1653 using a recent scientific breakthrough, the microscope. This first observation was of cork bark (Quercus suber) where the tissue morphology inspired the term “cell”. Ever since, microscopy has been a critical tool in the investigations of all biology, and in particular, botany.

The scattering of light has always been a major limitation in microscopy. The advent of tissue clearing agents to change the refractive index of samples was an important advancement in overcoming these limitations. Hertwig’s solution was once an ideal clearing technique due to its low cost and ease of use, but its unfortunate use as a psychoactive drug led to it being listed as a controlled substance, and therefore made it a challenge for researchers to acquire. In 2012, Visikol Co-Founder and CSO Dr. Thomas Villani first encountered this procurement challenge and quickly develop a solution that could match the clearing ability of Hertwig’s solution, while eliminating its narcotic nature.

All plants have a waxy cuticle of varying thickness, a barrier that obstructs the penetration of most aqueous tissue clearing reagents. Visikol® for Plant Biology™ is amphipathic and can overcome all but the thickest waxy cuticles. Beyond the plant cuticle, Visikol for Plant Biology can penetrate up to a cm deep into plant tissues, giving the ability to observe gross morphological characteristics without destroying a sample through traditional sectioning. This new non-2D approach has proven useful to taxonomists and plant breeders in the differentiation of subtle to nearly invisible differences in novel plant varieties.

Many plant pathogens feed on the subdermal chloroplasts in leaves without leaving obvious signs to their presence or the identity of which species is attacking. This identification can be critical to deciding on a management strategy:

  • Is that gaull of insect or fungal origin?
  • Are these silky threads mildew or spider mite?
  • Are these necrotic pits rust, scale, apple maggot or brown marmaladed stink bug?

Correctly answering questions like these today instead of tomorrow can have major economic consequences. Visikol for Plant Biology has proven itself an effective addition to the integrated pest management practices of plant biologists in the labs and fields worldwide. IPM, taxonomy and plant breeding are just some of important fields where their workflows and data gathering systems have been improved thanks to the rapid, passive and easy-to-use Visikol for Plant Biology.


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