A systematic review and comparison of automated tools for quantification of fibrous networks

Judith J. de Vries, Daphne M. Laan, Felix Frey, Gijsje H. Koenderink, Moniek P.M. de Maat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Fibrous networks are essential structural components of biological and engineered materials. Accordingly, many approaches have been developed to quantify their structural properties, which define their material properties. However, a comprehensive overview and comparison of methods is lacking. Therefore, we systematically searched for automated tools quantifying network characteristics in confocal, stimulated emission depletion (STED) or scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images and compared these tools by applying them to fibrin, a prototypical fibrous network in thrombi. Structural properties of fibrin such as fiber diameter and alignment are clinically relevant, since they influence the risk of thrombosis. Based on a systematic comparison of the automated tools with each other, manual measurements, and simulated networks, we provide guidance to choose appropriate tools for fibrous network quantification depending on imaging modality and structural parameter. These tools are often able to reliably measure relative changes in network characteristics, but absolute numbers should be interpreted with care. Statement of significance: Structural properties of fibrous networks define material properties of many biological and engineered materials. Many methods exist to automatically quantify structural properties, but an overview and comparison is lacking. In this work, we systematically searched for all publicly available automated analysis tools that can quantify structural properties of fibrous networks. Next, we compared them by applying them to microscopy images of fibrin networks. We also benchmarked the automated tools against manual measurements or synthetic images. As a result, we give advice on which automated analysis tools to use for specific structural properties. We anticipate that researchers from a large variety of fields, ranging from thrombosis and hemostasis to cancer research, and materials science, can benefit from our work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-274
Number of pages12
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Early online dateFeb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
F.F. gratefully acknowledges funding from the Kavli Synergy program of the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience Delft. G.H.K. gratefully acknowledges funding from the NWO Talent Programme which is financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) (project number VI.C.182.004). The sponsors had no involvement in the study design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data, or in the writing of the report and the decision to submit the article for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s)


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