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IEEE Trans Med Imaging. 2012 Jan;31(1):88-102. doi: 10.1109/TMI.2011.2165294. Epub 2011 Aug 18.

Estimation of mouse organ locations through registration of a statistical mouse atlas with micro-CT images.

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Crump Institute of Molecular Imaging, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90066, USA.


Micro-CT is widely used in preclinical studies of small animals. Due to the low soft-tissue contrast in typical studies, segmentation of soft tissue organs from noncontrast enhanced micro-CT images is a challenging problem. Here, we propose an atlas-based approach for estimating the major organs in mouse micro-CT images. A statistical atlas of major trunk organs was constructed based on 45 training subjects. The statistical shape model technique was used to include inter-subject anatomical variations. The shape correlations between different organs were described using a conditional Gaussian model. For registration, first the high-contrast organs in micro-CT images were registered by fitting the statistical shape model, while the low-contrast organs were subsequently estimated from the high-contrast organs using the conditional Gaussian model. The registration accuracy was validated based on 23 noncontrast-enhanced and 45 contrast-enhanced micro-CT images. Three different accuracy metrics (Dice coefficient, organ volume recovery coefficient, and surface distance) were used for evaluation. The Dice coefficients vary from 0.45 ± 0.18 for the spleen to 0.90 ± 0.02 for the lungs, the volume recovery coefficients vary from 0.96 ± 0.10 for the liver to 1.30 ± 0.75 for the spleen, the surface distances vary from 0.18 ± 0.01 mm for the lungs to 0.72 ± 0.42 mm for the spleen. The registration accuracy of the statistical atlas was compared with two publicly available single-subject mouse atlases, i.e., the MOBY phantom and the DIGIMOUSE atlas, and the results proved that the statistical atlas is more accurate than the single atlases. To evaluate the influence of the training subject size, different numbers of training subjects were used for atlas construction and registration. The results showed an improvement of the registration accuracy when more training subjects were used for the atlas construction. The statistical atlas-based registration was also compared with the thin-plate spline based deformable registration, commonly used in mouse atlas registration. The results revealed that the statistical atlas has the advantage of improving the estimation of low-contrast organs.

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