AIM: To establish the staining characteristics of certain ion exchange resins in histological material, with a view to enabling confident differential identification. METHODS: Various histological staining procedures were applied to selected pathological material and prepared agar blocks containing the cation exchange resin calcium polystyrene sulphonate and the anion exchange resin cholestyramine. RESULTS: Calcium polystyrene sulphonate uniquely stained strongly by a direct Schiff's reagent procedure without any preoxidation and by the Ziehl-Neelsen method. Cholestyramine was negative by the former method but stained strongly with a standard Congo red technique. CONCLUSIONS: These staining results are consistent with the known structure and properties of polystyrene sulphonate and cholestyramine resins. Polystyrene sulphonate resins have the virtually pathognomonic feature of direct Schiff positivity, while morphology, location, and strong non-birefringent Congo red positivity facilitate the identification of cholestyramine. It is possible that the intrinsic staining characteristics of cholestyramine may be lost once it has bound to its target.
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