Automating reflectance confocal microscopy image analysis for dermatological research: a review
Journal of Biomedical Optics
Reflectance confocal microscopy (RCM) is a noninvasive, in vivo technology that offers near histopathological resolution at the cellular level. It is useful in the study of phenomena for which obtaining a biopsy is impractical or would cause unnecessary tissue damage and trauma to the patient. This review covers the use of RCM in the study of skin and the use of machine learning to automate information extraction. It has two goals: (1) an overview of information provided by RCM on skin
... and how it changes over time in response to stimuli and in disease and (2) an overview of machine learning approaches developed to automate the extraction of key morphological features from RCM images. A PubMed search was conducted with additional literature obtained from references lists. The application of RCM as an in vivo tool in dermatological research and the biologically relevant information derived from it are presented. Algorithms for image classification to epidermal layers, delineation of the dermal-epidermal junction, classification of skin lesions, and demarcation of individual cells within an image, all important factors in the makeup of the skin barrier, were reviewed. Application of image analysis methods in RCM is hindered by low image quality due to noise and/or poor contrast. Use of supervised machine learning is limited by time-consuming manual labeling of RCM images. RCM has great potential in the study of skin structures. The use of artificial intelligence could enable an easier, more reproducible, precise, and rigorous study of RCM images for the understanding of skin structures, skin barrier, and skin inflammation and lesions. Although several attempts have been made, further work is still needed to provide a definite gold standard and overcome issues related to image quality, limited labeled datasets, and lack of phenotype variability in available databases.