MBF Bioscience > Stereology

What is Stereology?

Unbiased stereology is recognized in biological research as the best-practice method for quantitative histology. It is used to accurately quantify the number of cells, the length of fibers, and the area and volume of biological structures or regions. Stereology plays an important role in validating and rejecting experimental hypotheses. It is often used to help answer questions such as:


  • Is the number of cells in a region of interest in experimental subjects different from controls?
  • Has the length of nerve fibers or blood vessels changed?
  • Has there been a change in volume of a region of interest?
  • How much of my region of interest has been damaged by an injury?

Data and analyses obtained using stereology are more accurate than ad hoc quantitative analyses. Unbiased stereology uses systematic random sampling (a statistical sampling method) to select a representative sample of the region of interest. Then, researchers use a set of rigorously tested rules to mark cells and structures in each sampling site for quantification. 

Fields Of Study

Learn more about quantifying cell populations and brain regions with stereology

Why is Unbiased Stereology Important?

By using unbiased stereology, researchers get unbiased, accurate and reliable data. For this reason, many peer-reviewed journals require or recommend the use of unbiased stereology when quantifying cells or structures. The Stereo Investigator system for unbiased stereology has been cited in over 8,000 published papers, making it by far the most-cited unbiased stereology system in the world.


In order to obtain the accurate results that unbiased stereology is known for, it is important to follow certain practices, described in the literature, during tissue preparation. MBF has Ph.D. staff scientists who can give you practical support for all aspects of stereological experimental design—from the tissue processing stage all the way to interpreting the results.



Additionally, MBF provides you with a host of expert stereological support that includes detailed software workflows within Stereo Investigator, extensive on-line documentation, videos and webinars. All of this is available to help guide you through the steps of a stereological study that are briefly outlined below.


  • Sample:  Systematic random sampling (SRS) is an unbiased and efficient way to select sample sites within the region of interest.  Stereo Investigator uses systematic random sampling (SRS) to obtain a representative sample of the tissue.  The system first chooses a random starting site within the region of interest – a crucial step for SRS – then directs the motorized XY stage to automatically move at a constant interval to the subsequent sample sites.
  • Measure:  Cells or structures in the chosen sampling sites are counted or measured with probes – graphical shapes superimposed on the specimen. Stereo Investigator includes workflows for all of the most popular probes, along with detailed documentation that will guide you through any of the 30+ probes in the program. Stereo Investigator guides you to use the specific stereological rules to follow for each probe to ensure that you make accurate measurements.
  • Results:  The probe results are calculated to provide an accurate estimate of the counts or measurements for the region(s) of interest as a whole.  Stereo Investigator automatically calculates the results for you. The accuracy of the data is also calculated and provided as the coefficient of error. Stereo Investigator also exports results directly into Microsoft Excel, so you can easily sort and further analyze the data.


>> Read our book about stereology (with a focus on Neuroscience)

>> View a powerpoint presentation on ‘Stereology Therory and Experimental Design’

What to Look for When Purchasing a Stereology System?​

Our Solutions for Stereology

Stereo Investigator®

A Stereo Investigator system provides you with accurate, unbiased estimates of the number, length, area, and volume of cells or biological structures in a tissue specimen. It is a key research tool that has led to advances in numerous areas of neuroscience including neurodegenerative diseases, neuropathy, memory, and behavior, as well as other research fields.

Stereo Investigator® Cleared Tissue Edition

Stereo Investigator – Cleared Tissue Edition is the gold standard in unbiased stereology for use on cleared tissue. It allows researchers to use the world’s most cited stereology software — MBF Bioscience’s Stereo Investigator — to analyze intact, cleared tissue specimens imaged with light sheet or confocal microscopes.



Stereo Investigator® Whole Slide Edition

Stereo Investigator – Whole Slide Edition is a specialized software application for analyzing whole slide image data accurately and efficiently.








Expand Your Research Capabilities with Imaging Modules for Stereo Investigator

Want Help Understanding Which Product is Right for Your Application?​

At MBF, we’ve spent decades understanding the needs of researchers and their labs — and have a suite of products and solutions that have been specifically designed for the needs of today’s most important and advanced labs. Our commitment to you is to spend time with you discussing the needs of your lab — so that we can make sure the solutions we provide for you are exactly what you’ll need. It’s part of our commitment to supporting you — before, during, and after you’ve made your decision. We look forward to talking with you!