Human-level blood cell counting on lens-free shadow images exploiting deep neural networks
In point-of-care testing, in-line holographic microscopes paved the way for realizing portable cell counting systems at marginal cost. To maximize their accuracy, it is critically important to reliably count the number of cells even in noisy blood images overcoming various problems due to out-of-focus blurry cells and background brightness variations. However, previous studies could detect cells only on clean images while they failed to accurately distinguish blurry cells from background noises. To address this problem, we present a human-level blood cell counting system by synergistically integrating the methods of normalized cross-correlation (NCC) and a convolutional neural network (CNN). Our comprehensive performance evaluation demonstrates that the proposed system achieves the highest level of accuracy (96.7–98.4%) for any kinds of blood cells on a lens-free shadow image while others suffer from significant accuracy degradations (12.9–38.9%) when detecting blurry cells. Moreover, it outperforms others by up to 36.8% in accurately analyzing noisy blood images and is 24.0–40.8× faster, thus maximizing both accuracy and computational efficiency.