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J Cell Biol. 2014 Feb 3;204(3):443-60. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201306067.

CellGeo: a computational platform for the analysis of shape changes in cells with complex geometries.

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Department of Pharmacology, 2 Department of Biology, and 3 Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599.


Cell biologists increasingly rely on computer-aided image analysis, allowing them to collect precise, unbiased quantitative results. However, despite great progress in image processing and computer vision, current computational approaches fail to address many key aspects of cell behavior, including the cell protrusions that guide cell migration and drive morphogenesis. We developed the open source MATLAB application CellGeo, a user-friendly computational platform to allow simultaneous, automated tracking and analysis of dynamic changes in cell shape, including protrusions ranging from filopodia to lamellipodia. Our method maps an arbitrary cell shape onto a tree graph that, unlike traditional skeletonization algorithms, preserves complex boundary features. CellGeo allows rigorous but flexible definition and accurate automated detection and tracking of geometric features of interest. We demonstrate CellGeo's utility by deriving new insights into (a) the roles of Diaphanous, Enabled, and Capping protein in regulating filopodia and lamellipodia dynamics in Drosophila melanogaster cells and (b) the dynamic properties of growth cones in catecholaminergic a-differentiated neuroblastoma cells.

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