Nucleus and cytoplasm segmentation in microscopic images using K-means clustering and region growing


Department of Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Advanced Medical Technology, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran


Background: Segmentation of leukocytes acts as the foundation for all automated image-based hematological disease recognition systems. Most of the time, hematologists are interested in evaluation of white blood cells only. Digital image processing techniques can help them in their analysis and diagnosis.
Materials and Methods: The main objective of this paper is to detect leukocytes from a blood smear microscopic image and segment them into their two dominant elements, nucleus and cytoplasm. The segmentation is conducted using two stages of applying K-means clustering. First, the nuclei are segmented using K-means clustering. Then, a proposed method based on region growing is applied to separate the connected nuclei. Next, the nuclei are subtracted from the original image. Finally, the cytoplasm is segmented using the second stage of K-means clustering.
Results: The results indicate that the proposed method is able to extract the nucleus and cytoplasm regions accurately and works well even though there is no significant contrast between the components in the image.
Conclusions: In this paper, a method based on K-means clustering and region growing is proposed in order to detect leukocytes from a blood smear microscopic image and segment its components, the nucleus and the cytoplasm. As region growing step of the algorithm relies on the information of edges, it will not able to separate the connected nuclei more accurately in poor edges and it requires at least a weak edge to exist between the nuclei. The nucleus and cytoplasm segments of a leukocyte can be used for feature extraction and classification which leads to automated leukemia detection.


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