NuClick: A Deep Learning Framework for Interactive Segmentation of Microscopy Images

29 May 2020  ·  Navid Alemi Koohbanani, Mostafa Jahanifar, Neda Zamani Tajadin, Nasir Rajpoot ·

Object segmentation is an important step in the workflow of computational pathology. Deep learning based models generally require large amount of labeled data for precise and reliable prediction. However, collecting labeled data is expensive because it often requires expert knowledge, particularly in medical imaging domain where labels are the result of a time-consuming analysis made by one or more human experts. As nuclei, cells and glands are fundamental objects for downstream analysis in computational pathology/cytology, in this paper we propose a simple CNN-based approach to speed up collecting annotations for these objects which requires minimum interaction from the annotator. We show that for nuclei and cells in histology and cytology images, one click inside each object is enough for NuClick to yield a precise annotation. For multicellular structures such as glands, we propose a novel approach to provide the NuClick with a squiggle as a guiding signal, enabling it to segment the glandular boundaries. These supervisory signals are fed to the network as auxiliary inputs along with RGB channels. With detailed experiments, we show that NuClick is adaptable to the object scale, robust against variations in the user input, adaptable to new domains, and delivers reliable annotations. An instance segmentation model trained on masks generated by NuClick achieved the first rank in LYON19 challenge. As exemplar outputs of our framework, we are releasing two datasets: 1) a dataset of lymphocyte annotations within IHC images, and 2) a dataset of segmented WBCs in blood smear images.

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