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March 2017

Hematoxylin in History—The Heritage of Histology

Author Affiliations
  • 1Dermatological Surgery & Laser Unit, St John’s Institute of Dermatology, St Thomas’ Hospital, London, England
JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(3):328. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.0506

As staples of the histopathology laboratory, hematoxylin and eosin have become the inimitable scaffold on which many of our dermatological diagnoses are made.

Hematoxylin (etymologically derived from the Greek hematos: blood and xylos: tree) was originally derived from the heartwood (logwood) of the tree Hematoxylon campechianum, whose roots and trunk exude a ruddy turbid colorant when boiled or steamed.1,2 The product was discovered by Spanish explorers in the Yucatan Peninsula (in modern Mexico) in the 16th century. The indigenous Maya had long used it to dye cotton and to halt diarrhea.

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