skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 11:00 PM ET on Thursday, June 13 until 2:00 AM ET on Friday, June 14 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: DeepDOF-SE: affordable deep-learning microscopy platform for slide-free histology

Histopathology plays a critical role in the diagnosis and surgical management of cancer. However, access to histopathology services, especially frozen section pathology during surgery, is limited in resource-constrained settings because preparing slides from resected tissue is time-consuming, labor-intensive, and requires expensive infrastructure. Here, we report a deep-learning-enabled microscope, named DeepDOF-SE, to rapidly scan intact tissue at cellular resolution without the need for physical sectioning. Three key features jointly make DeepDOF-SE practical. First, tissue specimens are stained directly with inexpensive vital fluorescent dyes and optically sectioned with ultra-violet excitation that localizes fluorescent emission to a thin surface layer. Second, a deep-learning algorithm extends the depth-of-field, allowing rapid acquisition of in-focus images from large areas of tissue even when the tissue surface is highly irregular. Finally, a semi-supervised generative adversarial network virtually stains DeepDOF-SE fluorescence images with hematoxylin-and-eosin appearance, facilitating image interpretation by pathologists without significant additional training. We developed the DeepDOF-SE platform using a data-driven approach and validated its performance by imaging surgical resections of suspected oral tumors. Our results show that DeepDOF-SE provides histological information of diagnostic importance, offering a rapid and affordable slide-free histology platform for intraoperative tumor margin assessment and in low-resource settings.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. null (Ed.)
    Microscopic evaluation of resected tissue plays a central role in the surgical management of cancer. Because optical microscopes have a limited depth-of-field (DOF), resected tissue is either frozen or preserved with chemical fixatives, sliced into thin sections placed on microscope slides, stained, and imaged to determine whether surgical margins are free of tumor cells—a costly and time- and labor-intensive procedure. Here, we introduce a deep-learning extended DOF (DeepDOF) microscope to quickly image large areas of freshly resected tissue to provide histologic-quality images of surgical margins without physical sectioning. The DeepDOF microscope consists of a conventional fluorescence microscope with the simple addition of an inexpensive (less than $10) phase mask inserted in the pupil plane to encode the light field and enhance the depth-invariance of the point-spread function. When used with a jointly optimized image-reconstruction algorithm, diffraction-limited optical performance to resolve subcellular features can be maintained while significantly extending the DOF (200 µm). Data from resected oral surgical specimens show that the DeepDOF microscope can consistently visualize nuclear morphology and other important diagnostic features across highly irregular resected tissue surfaces without serial refocusing. With the capability to quickly scan intact samples with subcellular detail, the DeepDOF microscope can improve tissue sampling during intraoperative tumor-margin assessment, while offering an affordable tool to provide histological information from resected tissue specimens in resource-limited settings. 
    more » « less
  2. Histological staining of tissue biopsies, especially hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining, serves as the benchmark for disease diagnosis and comprehensive clinical assessment of tissue. However, the typical formalin-fixation, paraffin-embedding (FFPE) process is laborious and time consuming, often limiting its usage in time-sensitive applications such as surgical margin assessment. To address these challenges, we combine an emerging 3D quantitative phase imaging technology, termed quantitative oblique back illumination microscopy (qOBM), with an unsupervised generative adversarial network pipeline to map qOBM phase images of unaltered thick tissues (i.e., label- and slide-free) to virtually stained H&E-like (vH&E) images. We demonstrate that the approach achieves high-fidelity conversions to H&E with subcellular detail using fresh tissue specimens from mouse liver, rat gliosarcoma, and human gliomas. We also show that the framework directly enables additional capabilities such as H&E-like contrast for volumetric imaging. The quality and fidelity of the vH&E images are validated using both a neural network classifier trained on real H&E images and tested on virtual H&E images, and a user study with neuropathologists. Given its simple and low-cost embodiment and ability to provide real-time feedbackin vivo, this deep-learning-enabled qOBM approach could enable new workflows for histopathology with the potential to significantly save time, labor, and costs in cancer screening, detection, treatment guidance, and more.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Histological staining is the gold standard for tissue examination in clinical pathology and life-science research, which visualizes the tissue and cellular structures using chromatic dyes or fluorescence labels to aid the microscopic assessment of tissue. However, the current histological staining workflow requires tedious sample preparation steps, specialized laboratory infrastructure, and trained histotechnologists, making it expensive, time-consuming, and not accessible in resource-limited settings. Deep learning techniques created new opportunities to revolutionize staining methods by digitally generating histological stains using trained neural networks, providing rapid, cost-effective, and accurate alternatives to standard chemical staining methods. These techniques, broadly referred to asvirtual staining, were extensively explored by multiple research groups and demonstrated to be successful in generating various types of histological stains from label-free microscopic images of unstained samples; similar approaches were also used for transforming images of an already stained tissue sample into another type of stain, performing virtual stain-to-stain transformations. In this Review, we provide a comprehensive overview of the recent research advances in deep learning-enabled virtual histological staining techniques. The basic concepts and the typical workflow of virtual staining are introduced, followed by a discussion of representative works and their technical innovations. We also share our perspectives on the future of this emerging field, aiming to inspire readers from diverse scientific fields to further expand the scope of deep learning-enabled virtual histological staining techniques and their applications.

    more » « less
  4. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a rapid non‐invasive imaging technique that has shown high sensitivity for intra‐operative surgical margin assessment in human breast cancer clinical trials. This promising technology has not been evaluated in veterinary medicine. The objective of this study was to correlate normal and abnormal histological features with OCT images for surgical margins from excised canine soft tissue sarcoma (STS) and to establish image evaluation criteria for identifying positive surgical margins. Fourteen client‐owned dogs underwent surgical resection of a STS and OCT imaging of 2 to 4 areas of interest on the resected specimen were performed. Following imaging these areas were marked with surgical ink and trimmed for histopathology evaluation. Results showed that different tissue types had distinct characteristic appearances on OCT imaging. Adipose tissue exhibited a relatively low scattering and a honey‐comb texture pattern. Skeletal muscle and sarcoma tissue were both dense and highly scattering. While sarcoma tissue was highly scattering, it did not have organized recognizable structure in contrast to muscle which showed clear fibre alignment patterns. In this investigation, we showed different tissue types had different and characteristic scattering and image texture appearances on OCT, which closely correlate with low‐power histology images. Given the differentiation between tissue types the results support that OCT could be used to identify positive surgical margins immediately following resection of STS. Further research is needed to assess the diagnostic accuracy of this method for surgical margin assessment.

    more » « less
  5. Obeid, Iyad ; Picone, Joseph ; Selesnick, Ivan (Ed.)
    The Neural Engineering Data Consortium (NEDC) is developing a large open source database of high-resolution digital pathology images known as the Temple University Digital Pathology Corpus (TUDP) [1]. Our long-term goal is to release one million images. We expect to release the first 100,000 image corpus by December 2020. The data is being acquired at the Department of Pathology at Temple University Hospital (TUH) using a Leica Biosystems Aperio AT2 scanner [2] and consists entirely of clinical pathology images. More information about the data and the project can be found in Shawki et al. [3]. We currently have a National Science Foundation (NSF) planning grant [4] to explore how best the community can leverage this resource. One goal of this poster presentation is to stimulate community-wide discussions about this project and determine how this valuable resource can best meet the needs of the public. The computing infrastructure required to support this database is extensive [5] and includes two HIPAA-secure computer networks, dual petabyte file servers, and Aperio’s eSlide Manager (eSM) software [6]. We currently have digitized over 50,000 slides from 2,846 patients and 2,942 clinical cases. There is an average of 12.4 slides per patient and 10.5 slides per case with one report per case. The data is organized by tissue type as shown below: Filenames: tudp/v1.0.0/svs/gastro/000001/00123456/2015_03_05/0s15_12345/0s15_12345_0a001_00123456_lvl0001_s000.svs tudp/v1.0.0/svs/gastro/000001/00123456/2015_03_05/0s15_12345/0s15_12345_00123456.docx Explanation: tudp: root directory of the corpus v1.0.0: version number of the release svs: the image data type gastro: the type of tissue 000001: six-digit sequence number used to control directory complexity 00123456: 8-digit patient MRN 2015_03_05: the date the specimen was captured 0s15_12345: the clinical case name 0s15_12345_0a001_00123456_lvl0001_s000.svs: the actual image filename consisting of a repeat of the case name, a site code (e.g., 0a001), the type and depth of the cut (e.g., lvl0001) and a token number (e.g., s000) 0s15_12345_00123456.docx: the filename for the corresponding case report We currently recognize fifteen tissue types in the first installment of the corpus. The raw image data is stored in Aperio’s “.svs” format, which is a multi-layered compressed JPEG format [3,7]. Pathology reports containing a summary of how a pathologist interpreted the slide are also provided in a flat text file format. A more complete summary of the demographics of this pilot corpus will be presented at the conference. Another goal of this poster presentation is to share our experiences with the larger community since many of these details have not been adequately documented in scientific publications. There are quite a few obstacles in collecting this data that have slowed down the process and need to be discussed publicly. Our backlog of slides dates back to 1997, meaning there are a lot that need to be sifted through and discarded for peeling or cracking. Additionally, during scanning a slide can get stuck, stalling a scan session for hours, resulting in a significant loss of productivity. Over the past two years, we have accumulated significant experience with how to scan a diverse inventory of slides using the Aperio AT2 high-volume scanner. We have been working closely with the vendor to resolve many problems associated with the use of this scanner for research purposes. This scanning project began in January of 2018 when the scanner was first installed. The scanning process was slow at first since there was a learning curve with how the scanner worked and how to obtain samples from the hospital. From its start date until May of 2019 ~20,000 slides we scanned. In the past 6 months from May to November we have tripled that number and how hold ~60,000 slides in our database. This dramatic increase in productivity was due to additional undergraduate staff members and an emphasis on efficient workflow. The Aperio AT2 scans 400 slides a day, requiring at least eight hours of scan time. The efficiency of these scans can vary greatly. When our team first started, approximately 5% of slides failed the scanning process due to focal point errors. We have been able to reduce that to 1% through a variety of means: (1) best practices regarding daily and monthly recalibrations, (2) tweaking the software such as the tissue finder parameter settings, and (3) experience with how to clean and prep slides so they scan properly. Nevertheless, this is not a completely automated process, making it very difficult to reach our production targets. With a staff of three undergraduate workers spending a total of 30 hours per week, we find it difficult to scan more than 2,000 slides per week using a single scanner (400 slides per night x 5 nights per week). The main limitation in achieving this level of production is the lack of a completely automated scanning process, it takes a couple of hours to sort, clean and load slides. We have streamlined all other aspects of the workflow required to database the scanned slides so that there are no additional bottlenecks. To bridge the gap between hospital operations and research, we are using Aperio’s eSM software. Our goal is to provide pathologists access to high quality digital images of their patients’ slides. eSM is a secure website that holds the images with their metadata labels, patient report, and path to where the image is located on our file server. Although eSM includes significant infrastructure to import slides into the database using barcodes, TUH does not currently support barcode use. Therefore, we manage the data using a mixture of Python scripts and manual import functions available in eSM. The database and associated tools are based on proprietary formats developed by Aperio, making this another important point of community-wide discussion on how best to disseminate such information. Our near-term goal for the TUDP Corpus is to release 100,000 slides by December 2020. We hope to continue data collection over the next decade until we reach one million slides. We are creating two pilot corpora using the first 50,000 slides we have collected. The first corpus consists of 500 slides with a marker stain and another 500 without it. This set was designed to let people debug their basic deep learning processing flow on these high-resolution images. We discuss our preliminary experiments on this corpus and the challenges in processing these high-resolution images using deep learning in [3]. We are able to achieve a mean sensitivity of 99.0% for slides with pen marks, and 98.9% for slides without marks, using a multistage deep learning algorithm. While this dataset was very useful in initial debugging, we are in the midst of creating a new, more challenging pilot corpus using actual tissue samples annotated by experts. The task will be to detect ductal carcinoma (DCIS) or invasive breast cancer tissue. There will be approximately 1,000 images per class in this corpus. Based on the number of features annotated, we can train on a two class problem of DCIS or benign, or increase the difficulty by increasing the classes to include DCIS, benign, stroma, pink tissue, non-neoplastic etc. Those interested in the corpus or in participating in community-wide discussions should join our listserv,, to be kept informed of the latest developments in this project. You can learn more from our project website: 
    more » « less