Digital image analysis of histology sections provides reliable, high-throughput methods for neuropathological studies but data is scant in frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), which has an added challenge of study due to morphologically diverse pathologies. Here, we describe a novel method of semi-automated digital image analysis in FTLD subtypes including: Pick's disease (PiD, n=11) with tau-positive intracellular inclusions and neuropil threads, and TDP-43 pathology type C (FTLD-TDPC, n=10), defined by TDP-43-positive aggregates predominantly in large dystrophic neurites. To do this, we examined three FTLD-associated cortical regions: mid-frontal gyrus (MFG), superior temporal gyrus (STG) and anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG) by immunohistochemistry. We used a color deconvolution process to isolate signal from the chromogen and applied both object detection and intensity thresholding algorithms to quantify pathological burden. We found object-detection algorithms had good agreement with gold-standard manual quantification of tau- and TDP-43-positive inclusions. Our sampling method was reliable across three separate investigators and we obtained similar results in a pilot analysis using open-source software. Regional comparisons using these algorithms finds differences in regional anatomic disease burden between PiD and FTLD-TDP not detected using traditional ordinal scale data, suggesting digital image analysis is a powerful tool for clinicopathological studies in morphologically diverse FTLD syndromes.
Keywords: FTLD; Pick’s disease; TDP-43; Tau; digital image analysis.
© The Author(s) 2015.