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Cytometry B Clin Cytom. 2009 Jan;76(1):1-7. doi: 10.1002/cyto.b.20435. Epub 2008 Jul 18.

Analysis of clinical flow cytometric immunophenotyping data by clustering on statistical manifolds: treating flow cytometry data as high-dimensional objects.

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Department of Pathology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-0602, USA.



Clinical flow cytometry typically involves the sequential interpretation of two-dimensional histograms, usually culled from six or more cellular characteristics, following initial selection (gating) of cell populations based on a different subset of these characteristics. We examined the feasibility of instead treating gated n-parameter clinical flow cytometry data as objects embedded in n-dimensional space using principles of information geometry via a recently described method known as Fisher Information Non-parametric Embedding (FINE).


After initial selection of relevant cell populations through an iterative gating strategy, we converted four color (six-parameter) clinical flow cytometry datasets into six-dimensional probability density functions, and calculated differences among these distributions using the Kullback-Leibler divergence (a measurement of relative distributional entropy shown to be an appropriate approximation of Fisher information distance in certain types of statistical manifolds). Neighborhood maps based on Kullback-Leibler divergences were projected onto two dimensional displays for comparison.


These methods resulted in the effective unsupervised clustering of cases of acute lymphoblastic leukemia from cases of expansion of physiologic B-cell precursors (hematogones) within a set of 54 patient samples.


The treatment of flow cytometry datasets as objects embedded in high-dimensional space (as opposed to sequential two-dimensional analyses) harbors the potential for use as a decision-support tool in clinical practice or as a means for context-based archiving and searching of clinical flow cytometry data based on high-dimensional distribution patterns contained within stored list mode data. Additional studies will be needed to further test the effectiveness of this approach in clinical practice.

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