Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

A novel method to assess collagen architecture in skin

Osman S Osman12, Joanne L Selway1*, Parvathy E Harikumar1, Claire J Stocker1, Edward T Wargent1, Michael A Cawthorne1, Sabah Jassim2 and Kenneth Langlands1

Author Affiliations

1 The Clore Laboratory, The University of Buckingham, Hunter Street, Buckingham MK18 1EG, UK

2 Department of Applied Computing, The University of Buckingham, Hunter Street, Buckingham MK18 1EG, UK

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BMC Bioinformatics 2013, 14:260  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-14-260

Published: 26 August 2013



Texture within biological specimens may reveal critical insights, while being very difficult to quantify. This is a particular problem in histological analysis. For example, cross-polar images of picrosirius stained skin reveal exquisite structure, allowing changes in the basketweave conformation of healthy collagen to be assessed. Existing techniques measure gross pathological changes, such as fibrosis, but are not sufficiently sensitive to detect more subtle and progressive pathological changes in the dermis, such as those seen in ageing. Moreover, screening methods for cutaneous therapeutics require accurate, unsupervised and high-throughput image analysis techniques.


By analyzing spectra of images post Gabor filtering and Fast Fourier Transform, we were able to measure subtle changes in collagen fibre orientation intractable to existing techniques. We detected the progressive loss of collagen basketweave structure in a series of chronologically aged skin samples, as well as in skin derived from a model of type 2 diabetes mellitus.


We describe a novel bioimaging approach with implications for the evaluation of pathology in a broader range of biological situations.

Fast fourier transform; Gabor filter; Dermis; Ageing; Histology; Collagen; Basketweave; Type 2 diabetes mellitus