AI-Driven Cell Tracking to Enable High-Throughput Drug Screening Targeting Airway Epithelial Repair for Children with Asthma

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The airway epithelium of children with asthma is characterized by aberrant repair that may be therapeutically modifiable. The development of epithelial-targeting therapeutics that enhance airway repair could provide a novel treatment avenue for childhood asthma. Drug discovery efforts utilizing high-throughput live cell imaging of patient-derived airway epithelial culture-based wound repair assays can be used to identify compounds that modulate airway repair in childhood asthma. Manual cell tracking has been used to determine cell trajectories and wound closure rates, but is time consuming, subject to bias, and infeasible for high-throughput experiments. We therefore developed software, EPIC, that automatically tracks low-resolution low-framerate cells using artificial intelligence, analyzes high-throughput drug screening experiments and produces multiple wound repair metrics and publication-ready figures. Additionally, unlike available cell trackers that perform cell segmentation, EPIC tracks cells using bounding boxes and thus has simpler and faster training data generation requirements for researchers working with other cell types. EPIC outperformed publicly available software in our wound repair datasets by achieving human-level cell tracking accuracy in a fraction of the time. We also showed that EPIC is not limited to airway epithelial repair for children with asthma but can be applied in other cellular contexts by outperforming the same software in the Cell Tracking with Mitosis Detection Challenge (CTMC) dataset. The CTMC is the only established cell tracking benchmark dataset that is designed for cell trackers utilizing bounding boxes. We expect our open-source and easy-to-use software to enable high-throughput drug screening targeting airway epithelial repair for children with asthma.

Original languageEnglish
Article number809
JournalJournal of Personalized Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


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