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The simplest form of a carbohydrate is a monosaccharide, which is the building block of larger and more complex carbohydrates, namely polysaccharides and glycoconjugates, such as mucopolysaccharides.

Monosaccharides are not easily demonstrated using histology techniques due to the high number of hydroxyl (OH) groups which render the molecule extremely water soluble. Most monosaccharides that are present within tissue specimens will be lost during the fixation and standard tissue processing.