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Front. Comput. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fcomp.2019.00010

Generative Adversarial Networks for Augmenting Training Data of Microscopic Cell Images

Piotr Baniukiewicz1,  Josiah E. Lutton1, Sharon Collier1 and  Till Bretschneider1*
  • 1Department of Computer Science, University of Warwick, United Kingdom

Generative adversarial networks (GANs) have recently been successfully used to create realistic synthetic microscopy cell images in 2D and predict intermediate cell stages. In the current paper we highlight that GANs can not only be used for creating synthetic cell images optimized for different fluorescent molecular labels, but that by using GANs for augmentation of training data involving scaling or other transformations the inherent length scale of biological structures is retained. In addition, GANs make it possible to create synthetic cells with specific shape features, which can be used, for example, to validate different methods for feature extraction. Here, we apply GANs to create 2D distributions of fluorescent markers for F-actin in the cell cortex of Dictyostelium cells (ABD), a membrane receptor (cAR1), and a cortex-membrane linker protein (TalA). The recent more widespread use of 3D lightsheet microscopy, where obtaining sufficient training data is considerably more difficult than in 2D, creates significant demand for novel approaches to data augmentation. We show that it is possible to directly generate synthetic 3D cell images using GANs, but limitations are excessive training times, dependence on high-quality segmentations of 3D images, and that the number of z-slices cannot be freely adjusted without retraining the network. We demonstrate that in the case of molecular labels that are highly correlated with cell shape, like F-actin in our example, 2D GANs can be used efficiently to create pseudo-3D synthetic cell data from individually generated 2D slices. Because high quality segmented 2D cell data are more readily available, this is an attractive alternative to using less efficient 3D networks.

Keywords: GaN, Generative models, cell image synthesis, Data augmentation, live cell fluorescence microscopy

Received: 31 Jul 2019; Accepted: 07 Nov 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Baniukiewicz, Lutton, Collier and Bretschneider. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Till Bretschneider, University of Warwick, Department of Computer Science, Coventry, CV4 7AL, West Midlands, United Kingdom,