High-throughput image analysis of tumor spheroids: A user-friendly software application to measure the size of spheroids automatically and accurately

Wenjin Chen, Chung Wong, Evan Vosburgh, Arnold J. Levine, David J. Foran, Eugenia Y. Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations

Abstract

The increasing number of applications of three-dimensional (3D) tumor spheroids as an in vitro model for drug discovery requires their adaptation to large-scale screening formats in every step of a drug screen, including large-scale image analysis. Currently there is no ready-to-use and free image analysis software to meet this large-scale format. Most existing methods involve manually drawing the length and width of the imaged 3D spheroids, which is a tedious and time-consuming process. This study presents a high-throughput image analysis software application - SpheroidSizer, which measures the major and minor axial length of the imaged 3D tumor spheroids automatically and accurately; calculates the volume of each individual 3D tumor spheroid; then outputs the results in two different forms in spreadsheets for easy manipulations in the subsequent data analysis. The main advantage of this software is its powerful image analysis application that is adapted for large numbers of images. It provides high-throughput computation and quality-control workflow. The estimated time to process 1,000 images is about 15 min on a minimally configured laptop, or around 1 min on a multi-core performance workstation. The graphical user interface (GUI) is also designed for easy quality control, and users can manually override the computer results. The key method used in this software is adapted from the active contour algorithm, also known as Snakes, which is especially suitable for images with uneven illumination and noisy background that often plagues automated imaging processing in high-throughput screens. The complimentary "Manual Initialize" and "Hand Draw" tools provide the flexibility to SpheroidSizer in dealing with various types of spheroids and diverse quality images. This high-throughput image analysis software remarkably reduces labor and speeds up the analysis process. Implementing this software is beneficial for 3D tumor spheroids to become a routine in vitro model for drug screens in industry and academia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere51639
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number89
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 7 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)

Keywords

  • 3D
  • BON-1
  • Cancer Biology
  • Cancer research
  • Cancer therapy
  • Computer programming
  • Drug screen
  • High-throughput
  • Image analysis
  • Issue 89
  • Neuroendocrine tumor cell line
  • Software application
  • Tumor spheroids

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