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In PLoS biology

Our sense of hearing is mediated by sensory hair cells, precisely arranged and highly specialized cells subdivided into outer hair cells (OHCs) and inner hair cells (IHCs). Light microscopy tools allow for imaging of auditory hair cells along the full length of the cochlea, often yielding more data than feasible to manually analyze. Currently, there are no widely applicable tools for fast, unsupervised, unbiased, and comprehensive image analysis of auditory hair cells that work well either with imaging datasets containing an entire cochlea or smaller sampled regions. Here, we present a highly accurate machine learning-based hair cell analysis toolbox (HCAT) for the comprehensive analysis of whole cochleae (or smaller regions of interest) across light microscopy imaging modalities and species. The HCAT is a software that automates common image analysis tasks such as counting hair cells, classifying them by subtype (IHCs versus OHCs), determining their best frequency based on their location along the cochlea, and generating cochleograms. These automated tools remove a considerable barrier in cochlear image analysis, allowing for faster, unbiased, and more comprehensive data analysis practices. Furthermore, HCAT can serve as a template for deep learning-based detection tasks in other types of biological tissue: With some training data, HCAT's core codebase can be trained to develop a custom deep learning detection model for any object on an image.

Buswinka Christopher J, Osgood Richard T, Simikyan Rubina G, Rosenberg David B, Indzhykulian Artur A