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In Diagnostics (Basel, Switzerland)

BACKGROUND : Many clinical trials with potential drug treatment options for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are focused on patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) stages 2 and 3 fibrosis. As the histological features differentiating stage 1 (F1) from stage 2 (F2) NASH fibrosis are subtle, some patients may be wrongly staged by the in-house pathologist and miss the opportunity for enrollment into clinical trials. We hypothesized that our refined artificial intelligence (AI)-based algorithm (qFibrosis) can identify these subtle differences and serve as an assistive tool for in-house pathologists.

METHODS : Liver tissue from 160 adult patients with biopsy-proven NASH from Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and Peking University People's Hospital (PKUH) were used. A consensus read by two expert hepatopathologists was organized. The refined qFibrosis algorithm incorporated the creation of a periportal region that allowed for the increased detection of periportal fibrosis. Consequently, an additional 28 periportal parameters were added, and 28 pre-existing perisinusoidal parameters had altered definitions.

RESULTS : Twenty-eight parameters (20 periportal and 8 perisinusoidal) were significantly different between the F1 and F2 cases that prompted a change of stage after a careful consensus read. The discriminatory ability of these parameters was further demonstrated in a comparison between the true F1 and true F2 cases as 26 out of the 28 parameters showed significant differences. These 26 parameters constitute a novel sub-algorithm that could accurately stratify F1 and F2 cases.

CONCLUSION : The refined qFibrosis algorithm incorporated 26 novel parameters that showed a good discriminatory ability for NASH fibrosis stage 1 and 2 cases, representing an invaluable assistive tool for in-house pathologists when screening patients for NASH clinical trials.

Leow Wei-Qiang, Bedossa Pierre, Liu Feng, Wei Lai, Lim Kiat-Hon, Wan Wei-Keat, Ren Yayun, Chang Jason Pik-Eu, Tan Chee-Kiat, Wee Aileen, Goh George Boon-Bee


NAFLD, NASH fibrosis, qFibrosis