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Artificial Intelligence Enables Quantitative Assessment of Ulcerative Colitis Histology

Modern Pathology


Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that is characterized by a relapsing and remitting course. Assessment of disease activity critically informs treatment decisions. In addition to endoscopic remission, histologic remission is emerging as a treatment target and a key factor in the evaluation of disease activity and therapeutic efficacy. However, manual pathologist evaluation is semiquantitative and limited in granularity. Machine learning approaches are increasingly being developed to aid pathologists in accurate and reproducible scoring of histology, enabling precise quantitation of clinically relevant features. Here, we report the development and validation of convolutional neural network models that quantify histologic features pertinent to ulcerative colitis disease activity, directly from hematoxylin and eosinestained whole slide images. Tissue and cell model predictions were used to generate quantitative human-interpretable features to fully characterize the histology samples. Tissue and cell predictions showed comparable agreement to pathologist annotations, and the extracted slide-level human-interpretable features demonstrated strong correlations with disease severity and pathologist-assigned Nancy histological index scores. Moreover, using a random forest classifier based on 13 human-interpretable features derived from the tissue and cell models, we were able to accurately predict Nancy histological index scores, with a weighted kappa (k 1⁄4 0.91) and Spearman correlation (⍴ 1⁄4 0.89, P < .001) when compared with pathologist consensus Nancy histological index scores. We were also able to predict histologic remission, based on the absence of neutrophil extravasation, with a high accuracy of 0.97. This work demonstrates the potential of computer vision to enable a tandardized and robust assessment of ulcerative colitis histopathology for translational research and improved evaluation of disease activity and prognosis.
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Andrew H. Beck et al.