Casting Materials and their Application in Research and Teaching
Makanya, Andrew N
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From a biological point of view, casting refers to filling of anatomical and/or pathological spaces with extraneous material that reproduces a three-dimensional replica of the space. Casting may be accompanied by additional procedures such as corrosion, in which the soft tissue is digested out, leaving a clean cast, or the material may be mixed with radiopaque substances to allow x-ray photography or micro computed topography (µCT) scanning. Alternatively, clearing of the surrounding soft tissue increases transparency and allows visualization of the casted cavities. Combination of casting with tissue fixation allows anatomical dissection and didactic surgical procedures on the tissue. Casting materials fall into three categories namely, aqueous substances (India ink, Prussian blue ink), pliable materials (gelatins, latex, and silicone rubber), or hard materials (methyl methacrylates, polyurethanes, polyesters, and epoxy resins). Casting has proved invaluable in both teaching and research and many phenomenal biological processes have been discovered through casting. The choice of a particular material depends inter alia on the targeted use and the intended subsequent investigative procedures, such as dissection, microscopy, or µCT. The casting material needs to be pliable where anatomical and surgical manipulations are intended, and capillary-passable for ultrastructural investigations.