Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

Calcium (Ca2+) waves data calibration and analysis using image processing techniques

Carlos Milovic123*, Carolina Oses4, Manuel Villalón4, Sergio Uribe25, Carlos Lizama6, Claudia Prieto127, Marcelo E Andia25, Pablo Irarrazaval12 and Cristian Tejos12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Electrical Engineering, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile

2 Biomedical Imaging Center, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile

3 PixInsight Development Team, Pleiades Astrophoto S. L, Valencia, Spain

4 Faculty of Biology, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile

5 Radiology Department, School of Medicine, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile

6 Department of Mathematics and Computation Science, Universidad de Santiago de Chile, Santiago, Chile

7 Division of Imaging Sciences and Biomedical Engineering, King’s College London, London, UK

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BMC Bioinformatics 2013, 14:162  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-14-162

Published: 16 May 2013



Calcium (Ca2+) propagates within tissues serving as an important information carrier. In particular, cilia beat frequency in oviduct cells is partially regulated by Ca2+ changes. Thus, measuring the calcium density and characterizing the traveling wave plays a key role in understanding biological phenomena. However, current methods to measure propagation velocities and other wave characteristics involve several manual or time-consuming procedures. This limits the amount of information that can be extracted, and the statistical quality of the analysis.


Our work provides a framework based on image processing procedures that enables a fast, automatic and robust characterization of data from two-filter fluorescence Ca2+ experiments. We calculate the mean velocity of the wave-front, and use theoretical models to extract meaningful parameters like wave amplitude, decay rate and time of excitation.


Measurements done by different operators showed a high degree of reproducibility. This framework is also extended to a single filter fluorescence experiments, allowing higher sampling rates, and thus an increased accuracy in velocity measurements.

Calcium wave velocity; Two-filter method; Automation