Image-based cell phenotyping relies on quantitative measurements as encoded representations of cells; however, defining suitable representations that capture complex imaging features is challenged by the lack of robust methods to segment cells, identify subcellular compartments, and extract relevant features. Variational autoencoder (VAE) approaches produce encouraging results by mapping an image to a representative descriptor, and outperform classical hand-crafted features for morphology, intensity, and texture at differentiating data. Although VAEs show promising results for capturing morphological and organizational features in tissue, single cell image analyses based on VAEs often fail to identify biologically informative features due to uninformative technical variation. Here we propose a multi-encoder VAE (ME-VAE) in single cell image analysis using transformed images as a self-supervised signal to extract transform-invariant biologically meaningful features, including emergent features not obvious from prior knowledge. We show that the proposed architecture improves analysis by making distinct cell populations more separable compared to traditional and recent extensions of VAE architectures and intensity measurements by enhancing phenotypic differences between cells and by improving correlations to other analytic modalities. Better feature extraction and image analysis methods enabled by the ME-VAE will advance our understanding of complex cell biology and enable discoveries previously hidden behind image complexity ultimately improving medical outcomes and drug discovery.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)