Automated Digital Quantification of Pulmonary Fibrosis in Human Histopathology Specimens

By 24 June 2021IPF

Pulmonary fibrosis is characterized by abnormal interstitial extracellular matrix and cellular accumulations. Methods quantifying fibrosis severity in lung histopathology samples are semi-quantitative, subjective, and analyze only portions of sections. We sought to determine whether automated computerized imaging analysis shown to continuously measure fibrosis in mice could also be applied in human samples.
A pilot study was conducted to analyze a small number of specimens from patients with Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome pulmonary fibrosis (HPSPF) or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Digital images of entire lung histological serial sections stained with picrosirius red and alcian blue or anti-CD68 antibody were analyzed using dedicated software to automatically quantify fibrosis, collagen, andmacrophage content.
Automated fibrosis quantification based on parenchymal tissue density and fibrosis score measurements was compared to pulmonary function values or Ashcroft score.
Automated fibrosis quantification of HPSPF lung explants was significantly higher than that of IPF lung explants or biopsies and was also significantly higher in IPF lung explants than in IPF biopsies. A high correlation coefficient was found between some automated quantification measurements and lung function values for the three sample groups.
Automated quantification of collagen content in lung sections used for digital image analyses was similar in the three groups. CD68 immunolabeled cell measurements were significantly higher in HPSPF explants than in IPF biopsies. In conclusion, computerized image analysis provides access to accurate, reader-independent pulmonary fibrosis quantification in human histopathology samples. Fibrosis, collagen content, and immunostained cells can be automatically and individually quantified from serial sections.
Robust automated digital image analysis of human lung samples enhances the available tools to quantify and study fibrotic lung disease.