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Open Access Methodology article

Leukocyte nucleus segmentation and nucleus lobe counting

Yung-Kuan Chan1, Meng-Hsiun Tsai1, Der-Chen Huang2*, Zong-Han Zheng2 and Kun-Ding Hung2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Management Information Systems, National Chung Hsing University, No. 250, Kuokuang Rd., Taichung, R.O.C, Taiwan

2 Department of Computer Science and Engineering, National Chung Hsing University, No. 250, Kuokuang Rd., Taichung, R.O.C, Taiwan

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BMC Bioinformatics 2010, 11:558  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-558

Published: 12 November 2010

Abstract

Background

Leukocytes play an important role in the human immune system. The family of leukocytes is comprised of lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, basophils, and neutrophils. Any infection or acute stress may increase or decrease the number of leukocytes. An increased percentage of neutrophils may be caused by an acute infection, while an increased percentage of lymphocytes can be caused by a chronic bacterial infection. It is important to realize an abnormal variation in the leukocytes. The five types of leukocytes can be distinguished by their cytoplasmic granules, staining properties of the granules, size of cell, the proportion of the nuclear to the cytoplasmic material, and the type of nucleolar lobes. The number of lobes increased when leukemia, chronic nephritis, liver disease, cancer, sepsis, and vitamin B12 or folate deficiency occurred. Clinical neutrophil hypersegmentation has been widely used as an indicator of B12 or folate deficiency.Biomedical technologists can currently recognize abnormal leukocytes using human eyes. However, the quality and efficiency of diagnosis may be compromised due to the limitations of the biomedical technologists' eyesight, strength, and medical knowledge. Therefore, the development of an automatic leukocyte recognition system is feasible and necessary. It is essential to extract the leukocyte region from a blood smear image in order to develop an automatic leukocyte recognition system. The number of lobes increased when leukemia, chronic nephritis, liver disease, cancer, sepsis, and vitamin B12 or folate deficiency occurred. Clinical neutrophil hypersegmentation has been widely used as an indicator of B12 or folate deficiency.

Results

The purpose of this paper is to contribute an automatic leukocyte nuclei image segmentation method for such recognition technology. The other goal of this paper is to develop the method of counting the number of lobes in a cell nucleus. The experimental results demonstrated impressive segmentation accuracy.

Conclusions

Insensitive to the variance of images, the LNS (Leukocyte Nuclei Segmentation) method functioned well to isolate the leukocyte nuclei from a blood smear image with much better UR (Under Segmentation Rate), ER (Overall Error Rate), and RDE (Relative Distance Error). The presented LC (Lobe Counting) method is capable of splitting leukocyte nuclei into lobes. The experimental results illuminated that both methods can give expressive performances. In addition, three advanced image processing techniques were proposed as weighted Sobel operator, GDW (Gradient Direction Weight), and GBPD (Genetic-based Parameter Detector).