Marker-controlled Watershed with Deep Edge Emphasis and Optimized H-minima Transform for Automatic Segmentation of Densely Cultivated 3D Cell Nuclei

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Background The segmentation of 3D cell nuclei is essential in many tasks, such as targeted molecular radiotherapies (MRT) for metastatic tumours, toxicity screening, and the observation of proliferating cells. In recent years, one popular method for automatic segmentation of nuclei has been deep learning enhanced marker-controlled watershed transform. In this method, convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have been used to create nuclei masks and markers, and the watershed algorithm for the instance segmentation. We studied whether this method could be improved for the segmentation of densely cultivated 3D nuclei via developing multiple system configurations in which we studied the effect of edge emphasizing CNNs, and optimized H-minima transform for mask and marker generation, respectively. Results The dataset used for training and evaluation consisted of twelve in vitro cultivated densely packed 3D human carcinoma cell spheroids imaged using a confocal microscope. With this dataset, the evaluation was performed using a cross-validation scheme. In addition, four independent datasets were used for evaluation. The datasets were resampled near isotropic for our experiments. The baseline deep learning enhanced marker-controlled watershed obtained an average of 0.69 Panoptic Quality (PQ) and 0.66 Aggregated Jaccard Index (AJI) over the twelve spheroids. Using a system configuration, which was otherwise the same but used 3D-based edge emphasizing CNNs and optimized H-minima transform, the scores increased to 0.76 and 0.77, respectively. When using the independent datasets for evaluation, the best performing system configuration was shown to outperform or equal the baseline and a set of well-known cell segmentation approaches. Conclusions The use of edge emphasizing U-Nets and optimized H-minima transform can improve the marker-controlled watershed transform for segmentation of densely cultivated 3D cell nuclei. A novel dataset of twelve spheroids was introduced to the public.

Original languageEnglish
Article number289
JournalBMC Bioinformatics
Issue number1
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 2D
  • H-minima
  • Nuclei
  • TOOL
  • U-net
  • Watershed
  • 1182 Biochemistry, cell and molecular biology
  • 318 Medical biotechnology

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