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Cell spreading analysis with directed edge profile-guided level set active contours.

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Department of Computer Science, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia MO 65211, USA.


Cell adhesion and spreading within the extracellular matrix (ECM) plays an important role in cell motility, cell growth and tissue organization. Measuring cell spreading dynamics enables the investigation of cell mechanosensitivity to external mechanical stimuli, such as substrate rigidity. A common approach to measure cell spreading dynamics is to take time lapse images and quantify cell size and perimeter as a function of time. In our experiments, differences in cell characteristics between different treatments are subtle and require accurate measurements of cell parameters across a large population of cells to ensure an adequate sample size for statistical hypothesis testing. This paper presents a new approach to estimate accurate cell boundaries with complex shapes by applying a modified geodesic active contour level set method that directly utilizes the halo effect typically seen in phase contrast microscopy. Contour evolution is guided by edge profiles in a perpendicular direction to ensure convergence to the correct cell boundary. The proposed approach is tested on bovine aortic endothelial cell images under different treatments, and demonstrates accurate segmentation for a wide range of cell sizes and shapes compared to manual ground truth.

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