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IEEE Trans Med Imaging. 2015 Apr;34(4):911-29. doi: 10.1109/TMI.2014.2370951. Epub 2014 Nov 14.

Global linking of cell tracks using the Viterbi algorithm.


Automated tracking of living cells in microscopy image sequences is an important and challenging problem. With this application in mind, we propose a global track linking algorithm, which links cell outlines generated by a segmentation algorithm into tracks. The algorithm adds tracks to the image sequence one at a time, in a way which uses information from the complete image sequence in every linking decision. This is achieved by finding the tracks which give the largest possible increases to a probabilistically motivated scoring function, using the Viterbi algorithm. We also present a novel way to alter previously created tracks when new tracks are created, thus mitigating the effects of error propagation. The algorithm can handle mitosis, apoptosis, and migration in and out of the imaged area, and can also deal with false positives, missed detections, and clusters of jointly segmented cells. The algorithm performance is demonstrated on two challenging datasets acquired using bright-field microscopy, but in principle, the algorithm can be used with any cell type and any imaging technique, presuming there is a suitable segmentation algorithm.

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