Quantitative Geometric Modeling of Blood Cells from X-ray Histotomograms of Whole Zebrafish Larvae

  1. – Department of Pathology, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. – The Jake Gittlen Laboratories for Cancer Research, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA
  3. – Biomedical Sciences PhD Program, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA
  4. – School of Computer, National University of Defense Technology, Changsha, 410073, China
  5. – Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Area, College of Information Sciences and Technology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA
  6. – Bioinformatics and Genomics PhD Program, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA
  7. – Department of Radiology, The University of Chicago, Chicago, USA
  8. – Department of Mathematics, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 16802, USA
  9. – College of Information Sciences and Technology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA
  10. – Department of Marketing, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA, 16802 USA


  • Reviewing Editor
    Richard White
    Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
  • Senior Editor
    Didier Stainier
    Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research, Bad Nauheim, Germany

Joint Public Review:

The authors explored previously developed pan-resolution x-ray tomographic imaging pipelines for quantitative analysis of thousands of blood cells within 4 and 5 dpf zebrafish. By performing automatic segmentation of individual cells within the zebrafish embryo, the authors tried to demonstrate the applicability of x-ray tomography to quantitative analysis of cell phenotypes at the tissue level. The combination of random forest classification and automatic segmentation based on cell pose is promising, especially considering the open access and the general applicability of these tools. However, the key features claimed by the authors, that is, visualisation of all blood cells in the embryo and quantitative analysis of blood cell phenotypes, were not sufficiently supported by the presented data. Additionally, I see limitations in applicability to other cell types, as mentioned by authors as well, and similar analysis on other organisms due to differences in cell size, packing, and tissue background.

When supported by additional data, the manuscript has the potential to be a useful pipeline for cell phenotype analysis and an impactful method for the zebrafish community and beyond.

Major points:
1. The authors report that pan-resolution x-ray tomography enables visualisation of blood cells in the whole zebrafish embryo. These observations are based on a comparative analysis of EM data and histology with x-ray tomography. Not EM, nor histology shows the distribution of all blood cells (or comparable volume) as in x-ray tomography. At this point, it would be important to supplement the work with the 3D distribution of blood cells visualized by complementary methods, for example, light-sheet microscopy. Such data can be compared to the cells visualized by x-ray tomography like in Figure 6 in terms of cell numbers and distribution throughout the organs. Without such comparative analysis, it is unclear whether X-ray tomography visualizes all blood cells in the organism.

2. Some critical information is missing for the optimisation of automatic segmentation. For example, how was the manual segmentation performed? For example, how cells of 3 pixels in diameter were segmented (Figure 8)? On how many cells? Taking that the F1 score is often biologically not meaningful, see Lena Maier-Hein, Bjoern Menze, et al. it would be important to make careful evaluation of segmentation results. For example, in Figure 2 it would be important to add the histogram of volume distribution in these datasets not just one mean value. The same type of histogram would be important to add to Figure 5 and compare these results to Figure 2.

3. For the comparison of blood cell shape between different samples, there is a lack of statistics and validation. How many embryos per condition were used? Considering that blood cells should be possible to obtain from zebrafish embryos. It would be important to see something like FACs data on blood cells from the same type of specimens. Would the size distribution obtained by FACs be comparable to X-ray tomography data? Without validation by other methods and statistically meaningful analysis, the results from x-ray tomography are simply not substantiated.

Minor points:
1. Please put some details on the parameters and usage of Cellpose.

2. The claim in the Discussion on 'was able to show differences between data sets sufficient to classify new, unknown blood cells into these groups' is not supported by the data.

3. The key resource table should include all reagents, including sample preparation. This resource table should also include data sets as a resource, which are currently in the 'Data availability statement'.

4. Provide tables with the results on manual segmentation, automatic segmentation, and analysis of cellular phenotypes used for LDA.

  1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  2. Wellcome Trust
  3. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
  4. Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation