Automated Reference Kidney Histomorphometry using a Panoptic Segmentation Neural Network Correlates to Patient Demographics and Creatinine

Proc SPIE Int Soc Opt Eng. 2023 Feb:12471:124711R. doi: 10.1117/12.2655288. Epub 2023 Apr 6.


Reference histomorphometric data of healthy human kidneys are lacking due to laborious quantitation requirements. We leveraged deep learning to investigate the relationship of histomorphometry with patient age, sex, and serum creatinine in a multinational set of reference kidney tissue sections. A panoptic segmentation neural network was developed and used to segment viable and sclerotic glomeruli, cortical and medullary interstitia, tubules, and arteries/arterioles in digitized images of 79 periodic acid-Schiff (PAS)-stained human nephrectomy sections showing minimal pathologic changes. Simple morphometrics (e.g., area, radius, density) were measured from the segmented classes. Regression analysis was used to determine the relationship of histomorphometric parameters with age, sex, and serum creatinine. The model achieved high segmentation performance for all test compartments. We found that the size and density of nephrons, arteries/arterioles, and the baseline level of interstitium vary significantly among healthy humans, with potentially large differences between subjects from different geographic locations. Nephron size in any region of the kidney was significantly dependent on patient creatinine. Slight differences in renal vasculature and interstitium were observed between sexes. Finally, glomerulosclerosis percentage increased and cortical density of arteries/arterioles decreased as a function of age. We show that precise measurements of kidney histomorphometric parameters can be automated. Even in reference kidney tissue sections with minimal pathologic changes, several histomorphometric parameters demonstrated significant correlation to patient demographics and serum creatinine. These robust tools support the feasibility of deep learning to increase efficiency and rigor in histomorphometric analysis and pave the way for future large-scale studies.

Keywords: Panoptic segmentation; histology; kidney; morphometrics; reference.