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In Frontiers in oncology

The fundamental basis in the development of novel radiotherapy methods is in-vitro cellular studies. To assess different endpoints of cellular reactions to irradiation like proliferation, cell cycle arrest, and cell death, several assays are used in radiobiological research as standard methods. For example, colony forming assay investigates cell survival and Caspase3/7-Sytox assay cell death. The major limitation of these assays is the analysis at a fixed timepoint after irradiation. Thus, not much is known about the reactions before or after the assay is performed. Additionally, these assays need special treatments, which influence cell behavior and health. In this study, a completely new method is proposed to tackle these challenges: A deep-learning algorithm called CeCILE (Cell Classification and In-vitro Lifecycle Evaluation), which is used to detect and analyze cells on videos obtained from phase-contrast microscopy. With this method, we can observe and analyze the behavior and the health conditions of single cells over several days after treatment, up to a sample size of 100 cells per image frame. To train CeCILE, we built a dataset by labeling cells on microscopic images and assign class labels to each cell, which define the cell states in the cell cycle. After successful training of CeCILE, we irradiated CHO-K1 cells with 4 Gy protons, imaged them for 2 days by a microscope equipped with a live-cell-imaging set-up, and analyzed the videos by CeCILE and by hand. From analysis, we gained information about cell numbers, cell divisions, and cell deaths over time. We could show that similar results were achieved in the first proof of principle compared with colony forming and Caspase3/7-Sytox assays in this experiment. Therefore, CeCILE has the potential to assess the same endpoints as state-of-the-art assays but gives extra information about the evolution of cell numbers, cell state, and cell cycle. Additionally, CeCILE will be extended to track individual cells and their descendants throughout the whole video to follow the behavior of each cell and the progeny after irradiation. This tracking method is capable to put radiobiologic research to the next level to obtain a better understanding of the cellular reactions to radiation.

Rudigkeit Sarah, Reindl Julian B, Matejka Nicole, Ramson Rika, Sammer Matthias, Dollinger G√ľnther, Reindl Judith


cell-tracking, deep-learning, lifecycle analysis, phase-contrast microscopy, radiobiology