Automated segmentation and object classification of CT images: Application to in vivo molecular imaging of avian embryos.
Background. Although chick embryogenesis has been studied extensively, there has been growing interest in the investigation of skeletogenesis. In addition to improved poultry health and minimized economic loss, a greater understanding of skeletal abnormalities can also have implications for human medicine. True in vivo studies require noninvasive imaging techniques such as high-resolution microCT. However, the manual analysis of acquired images is both time consuming and subjective. Methods. We have developed a system for automated image segmentation that entails object-based image analysis followed by the classification of the extracted image objects. For image segmentation, a rule set was developed using Definiens image analysis software. The classification engine was implemented using the WEKA machine learning tool. Results. Our system reduces analysis time and observer bias while maintaining high accuracy. Applying the system to the quantification of long bone growth has allowed us to present the first true in ovo data for bone length growth recorded in the same chick embryos. Conclusions. The procedures developed represent an innovative approach for the automated segmentation, classification, quantification, and visualization of microCT images. MicroCT offers the possibility of performing longitudinal studies and thereby provides unique insights into the morpho- and embryogenesis of live chick embryos.