Labeled slides from epithelial cells sampled Summer 2013

I recently took a look* at these slides where vaginal epithelial cells from my pouched rats were collected in Summer 2013. One of our goals is to decipher the reproductive mysteries of pouched rat: sexual maturity, cycling, breeding, etc.

* By I took a look, I mean I had an undergraduate take a look.

This is a micro snapshot of what those slides looked liked when they they were collected and viewed fresh. We followed this protocol and used these procedures to collect the cells and analyze the slides.

Pouched Rat Vaginal Cytology sample

I don't have the heart to share a picture of what the slides look like now. I can't make hide or hair out of a single epithelial slide today, almost 2 years later. Despite the staining and persistence of color, the cells of interests are no longer apparent.

*Sigh* which brings me to a very important research question: How long will cells last (be preserved) under this Crystal Violet Staining technique? Is there a step I should add to my protocol to make the cells last longer?

I'm returning to Tanzania to complete my field research and I it would be great to collect some vaginal smears of wild pouched rats. But microscope work isn't really what I do. I'll collect it and do the work, but if there is a way for me to collect the smears, label the slides and then return to the States and let someone else analyze them, I would prefer that. So, I would love some feedback from my micro-biology/reproductive physiology peeps. Any ideas or recommendations to help me work smarter?