Generative Adversarial Networks for Facilitating Stain-Independent Supervised and Unsupervised Segmentation: A Study on Kidney Histology

IEEE Trans Med Imaging. 2019 Oct;38(10):2293-2302. doi: 10.1109/TMI.2019.2899364. Epub 2019 Feb 14.


A major challenge in the field of segmentation in digital pathology is given by the high effort for manual data annotations in combination with many sources introducing variability in the image domain. This requires methods that are able to cope with variability without requiring to annotate a large amount of samples for each characteristic. In this paper, we develop approaches based on adversarial models for image-to-image translation relying on unpaired training. Specifically, we propose approaches for stain-independent supervised segmentation relying on image-to-image translation for obtaining an intermediate representation. Furthermore, we develop a fully-unsupervised segmentation approach exploiting image-to-image translation to convert from the image to the label domain. Finally, both approaches are combined to obtain optimum performance in unsupervised segmentation independent of the characteristics of the underlying stain. Experiments on patches showing kidney histology proof that stain-translation can be performed highly effectively and can be used for domain adaptation to obtain independence of the underlying stain. It is even capable of facilitating the underlying segmentation task, thereby boosting the accuracy if an appropriate intermediate stain is selected. Combining domain adaptation with unsupervised segmentation finally showed the most significant improvements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Data Curation
  • Histocytochemistry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Kidney* / chemistry
  • Kidney* / diagnostic imaging
  • Kidney* / pathology
  • Machine Learning*