SLCV-a supervised learning-computer vision combined strategy for automated muscle fibre detection in cross-sectional images

PeerJ. 2019 Jul 22:7:e7053. doi: 10.7717/peerj.7053. eCollection 2019.


Muscle fibre cross-sectional area (CSA) is an important biomedical measure used to determine the structural composition of skeletal muscle, and it is relevant for tackling research questions in many different fields of research. To date, time consuming and tedious manual delineation of muscle fibres is often used to determine the CSA. Few methods are able to automatically detect muscle fibres in muscle fibre cross-sections to quantify CSA due to challenges posed by variation of brightness and noise in the staining images. In this paper, we introduce the supervised learning-computer vision combined pipeline (SLCV), a robust semi-automatic pipeline for muscle fibre detection, which combines supervised learning (SL) with computer vision (CV). SLCV is adaptable to different staining methods and is quickly and intuitively tunable by the user. We are the first to perform an error analysis with respect to cell count and area, based on which we compare SLCV to the best purely CV-based pipeline in order to identify the contribution of SL and CV steps to muscle fibre detection. Our results obtained on 27 fluorescence-stained cross-sectional images of varying staining quality suggest that combining SL and CV performs significantly better than both SL-based and CV-based methods with regards to both the cell separation- and the area reconstruction error. Furthermore, applying SLCV to our test set images yielded fibre detection results of very high quality, with average sensitivity values of 0.93 or higher on different cluster sizes and an average Dice similarity coefficient of 0.9778.

Keywords: Automated muscle fibre detection; Computer vision; Muscle fibre cross-sectional area; Supervised learning.

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF), project PrevOp-OVERLOAD, grant number 01EC1408H, 01EC1408B (Vikram Sunkara, Max von Kleist), grant number 01EC1408L (Tobias Haase, Wolfgang Ertel) and project Meth4SysPharm, grant number 031A307 (Max von Kleist). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.