Morphological analyses with flatmount fluorescent images are essential to retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) aging studies and thus require accurate RPE cell segmentation. Although rapid technology advances in deep learning semantic segmentation have achieved great success in many biomedical research, the performance of these supervised learning methods for RPE cell segmentation is still limited by inadequate training data with high-quality annotations.
To address this problem, we develop a Self-Supervised Semantic Segmentation (S4) method that utilizes a self-supervised learning strategy to train a semantic segmentation network with an encoder–decoder architecture. We employ a reconstruction and a pairwise representation loss to make the encoder extract structural information, while we create a morphology loss to produce the segmentation map. In addition, we develop a novel image augmentation algorithm (AugCut) to produce multiple views for self-supervised learning and enhance the network training performance. To validate the efficacy of our method, we applied our developed S4 method for RPE cell segmentation to a large set of flatmount fluorescent microscopy images, we compare our developed method for RPE cell segmentation with other state-of-the-art deep learning approaches. Compared with other state-of-the-art deep learning approaches, our method demonstrates better performance in both qualitative and quantitative evaluations, suggesting its promising potential to support large-scale cell morphological analyses in RPE aging investigations.
The codes and the documentation are available at: https://github.com/jkonglab/S4_RPE.