Quantification of collagen and elastic fibers using whole-slide images of liver biopsy specimens


Correspondence: Michiie Sakamoto, MD, PhD, Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, Keio University, 35 Shinanomachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-8582, Japan. Email: msakamot@z5.keio.jp


Histological evaluation of fibrosis after a liver biopsy is crucial for evaluating the pathology of patients with chronic liver disease. Previous studies have reported quantitative analyses of fibrosis using images of collagen-stained sections. However, analysis of these studies requires manual selection of the region of interest. In addition, the quantification of elastic fibers is not considered. The present study was conducted in order to measure both the collagen and elastic fiber area ratios using Elastica van Gieson-stained whole-slide images (WSIs) of liver biopsy specimens. High-resolution WSIs provide precise color classification, enabling accurate detection of even fine collagen and elastic fibers. To minimize the influence of pre-existing fibrous tissue, median area ratios of the collagen and elastic fibers were independently calculated from the image tiles of the WSIs. These median area ratios were highly concordant with area ratios after the pre-existing fibrous tissues were manually trimmed from the WSI. Further, these median area ratios were correlated with liver stiffness as measured by transient elastography (collagen: r = 0.73 [P < 0.01], elastic: r = 0.53 [P < 0.01]). Our approach to quantifying liver fibrosis will serve as an effective tool to evaluate liver diseases in routine practice.