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Semi-automatic Stitching of Serial Section Image Stacks with Filamentous Structures

Please always quote using this URN: urn:nbn:de:0297-zib-73739
  • In this paper, we present a software-assisted workflow for the alignment and matching of filamentous structures across a stack of 3D serial image sections. This is achieved by a combination of automatic methods, visual validation, and interactive correction. After an initial alignment, the user can continuously improve the result by interactively correcting landmarks or matches of filaments. This is supported by a quality assessment that visualizes regions that have been already inspected and, thus, allows a trade-off between quality and manual labor. The software tool was developed in collaboration with biologists who investigate microtubule-based spindles during cell division. To quantitatively understand the structural organization of such spindles, a 3D reconstruction of the numerous microtubules is essential. Each spindle is cut into a series of semi-thick physical sections, of which electron tomograms are acquired. The sections then need to be stitched, i.e. non-rigidly aligned; and the microtubules need to be traced in each section and connected across section boundaries. Experiments led to the conclusion that automatic methods for stitching alone provide only an incomplete solution to practical analysis needs. Automatic methods may fail due to large physical distortions, a low signal-to-noise ratio of the images, or other unexpected experimental difficulties. In such situations, semi-automatic validation and correction is required to rescue as much information as possible to derive biologically meaningful results despite of some errors related to data collection. Since the correct stitching is visually not obvious due to the number of microtubules (up to 30k) and their dense spatial arrangement, these are difficult tasks. Furthermore, a naive inspection of each microtubule is too time consuming. In addition, interactive visualization is hampered by the size of the image data (up to 100 GB). Based on the requirements of our collaborators, we present a practical solution for the semi-automatic stitching of serial section image stacks with filamentous structures.

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Author:Norbert LindowORCiD, Florian Brünig, Vincent J. DercksenORCiD, Gunar FabigORCiD, Robert KiewiszORCiD, Stefanie Redemann, Thomas Müller-Reichert, Steffen Prohaska
Document Type:ZIB-Report
Date of first Publication:2019/11/28
Series (Serial Number):ZIB-Report (19-30)
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY - Namensnennung 4.0 International
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