Deep-learning-based segmentation of small extracellular vesicles in transmission electron microscopy images

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Nature Research
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Small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) are cell-derived vesicles of nanoscale size (~30-200 nm) that function as conveyors of information between cells, reflecting the cell of their origin and its physiological condition in their content. Valuable information on the shape and even on the composition of individual sEVs can be recorded using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Unfortunately, sample preparation for TEM image acquisition is a complex procedure, which often leads to noisy images and renders automatic quantification of sEVs an extremely difficult task. We present a completely deep-learning-based pipeline for the segmentation of sEVs in TEM images. Our method applies a residual convolutional neural network to obtain fine masks and use the Radon transform for splitting clustered sEVs. Using three manually annotated datasets that cover a natural variability typical for sEV studies, we show that the proposed method outperforms two different state-of-the-art approaches in terms of detection and segmentation performance. Furthermore, the diameter and roundness of the segmented vesicles are estimated with an error of less than 10%, which supports the high potential of our method in biological applications.
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Gómez-de-Mariscal, E., Maška, M., Kotrbová, A., Pospíchalová, V., Matula, P. & Muñoz-Barrutia, A. (2019). Deep-Learning-Based Segmentation of Small Extracellular Vesicles in Transmission Electron Microscopy Images. Scientific Reports, 9: 13211.