[Histonet] Reply to Ian Montgomery on Cleaning bones

From:"Gayle Callis"

Ian Montgomery wrote: 
I have some bones, from various species, that I want to clean of muscle, tendons, etc, etc. The method currently used is boiling the bones in water for several hours, days until they are completely clean. Problem, it's a wee bit smelly, in fact a big bit smelly. Me being a delicate soul more used to various exotic eau de parfum wonder if there is another technique available. Some species respond to soaking for several weeks in laboratory detergent while others don't. NaOH or KOH, again some do others don't. What I would ideally like is a universal method that's reasonably quick, but not
smelly, can anyone help.Reply:  Ian, A non smelly way to clean bones is to use an enzyme bleach detergent method. the flesh and also the cartilage will come off the bones without problems.  If the bones fall apart, which they tend to do as the enzyme works on all collagen/soft tissue attachments, you will have to keep track of parts, rinse them well and do some gluing.  The latter is an anatomy lesson in itself as bone fits together like an interdigitating jigsaw puzzle.  I have done bones in unfixed and NBF fixed states, but found fixed bones tend to stay together a bit better.  You can do either.  i wrapped the bone in cheesecloth and suspended it into the detergent solution when heating it (80F), do not BOIL!  The enzyme soap I use in the USA is BIZ detergent and I am not sure you can get this in UK.  However you may find another that works.  The scent of BIZ keeps you from falling over from nasty smell of boiled bones.  You can rinse the bone as you go along, so you know if the soft tissue parts are sliding off bone with ease.  I rinsed the bones at completion of cleaning for several hours, then air dried them.  BIZ will also bleach the bones in the process.  I have some superb museum mounts of bovine skulls, femurs, tibias, etc also  sheep, rat and mouse bones.   I found a publication back in the 80's in Journal of Anatomy on how to do this on human skulls for museum aka teaching purposes.  Good luck on finding the correct soapGayle Callis HT/HTL/MT(ASCP)

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