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Digital pathology imaging and computer-aided diagnostics as a novel tool for standardization of evaluation of aganglionic megacolon (Hirschsprung disease) histopathology

Schilling, Florian, Geppert, Carol E., Strehl, Johanna, Hartmann, Arndt, Kuerten, Stefanie, Brehmer, Axel, Jabari, Samir
Cell and tissue research 2019 v.375 no.2 pp. 371-381
artificial intelligence, automation, biopsy, computer software, diagnostic techniques, histopathology, image analysis, immunohistochemistry, megacolon, patients, staining, tissues
Based on a recently introduced immunohistochemical panel (Bachmann et al. 2015) for aganglionic megacolon (AM), also known as Hirschsprung disease, histopathological diagnosis, we evaluated whether the use of digital pathology and ‘machine learning’ could help to obtain a reliable diagnosis. Slides were obtained from 31 specimens of 27 patients immunohistochemically stained for MAP2, calretinin, S100β and GLUT1. Slides were digitized by whole slide scanning. We used a Definiens Developer Tissue Studios as software for analysis. We configured necessary parameters in combination with ‘machine learning’ to identify pathological aberrations. A significant difference between AM- and non-AM-affected tissues was found for calretinin (AM 0.55% vs. non-AM 1.44%) and MAP2 (AM 0.004% vs. non-AM 0.07%) staining measurements and software-based evaluations. In contrast, S100β and GLUT1 staining measurements and software-based evaluations showed no significant differences between AM- and non-AM-affected tissues. However, no difference was found in comparison of suction biopsies with resections. Applying machine learning via an ensemble voting classifier, we achieved an accuracy of 87.5% on the test set. Automated diagnosis of AM by applying digital pathology on immunohistochemical panels was successful for calretinin and MAP2, whereas S100β and GLUT1 were not effective in diagnosis. Our method suggests that software-based approaches are capable of diagnosing AM. Our future challenge will be the improvement of efficiency by reduction of the time-consuming need for large pre-labelled training data. With increasing technical improvement, especially in unsupervised training procedures, this method could be helpful in the future.