The 3D reconstructed skin micronucleus assay using imaging flow cytometry and deep learning: A proof-of-principle investigation

Ashley Allemang, Robert Thacker, Richard A. DeMarco, Matthew A. Rodrigues, Stefan Pfuhler

The reconstructed skin micronucleus (RSMN) assay was developed in 2006, as an in vitro alternative for genotoxicity evaluation of dermally applied chemicals or products. In the years since, significant progress has been made in the optimization of the assay, including publication of a standard protocol and extensive validation. However, the diverse morphology of skin cells makes cell preparation and scoring of micronuclei (MN) tedious and subjective, thus requiring a high level of technical expertise for evaluation. This ultimately has a negative impact on throughput and the assay would benefit by the development of an automated method which could reduce scoring subjectivity while also improving the robustness of the assay by increasing the number of cells that can be scored. Imaging flow cytometry (IFC) with the ImageStream®X Mk II can capture high-resolution transmission and fluorescent imagery of cells in suspension. This proof-of-principle study describes protocol modifications that enable such automated measurement in 3D skin cells following exposure to mitomycin C and colchicine. IFC was then used for automated image capture and the Amnis® Artificial Intelligence (AAI) software permitted identification of binucleated (BN) cells with 91% precision. On average, three times as many BN cells from control samples were evaluated using IFC compared to the standard manual analysis. When IFC MNBN cells were visually scored from within the BN cell images, their frequency compared well with manual slide scoring, showing that IFC technology can be applied to the RSMN assay. This method enables faster time to result than microscope-based scoring and the initial studies presented here demonstrate its capability for the detection of statistically significant increases in MNBN frequencies. This work therefore demonstrates the feasibility of combining IFC and AAI to automate scoring for the RSMN assay and to improve its throughput and statistical robustness.


EpiDerm (EPI-200-MNA), hazard assessment, Micronucleus assay, Reconstructed Skin micronucleus test (RSMN), Imaging flow cytometry (IFC), artificial intelligence (AI), binucleated (BN) cells, micronuclei (MN), automated scoring, Genotoxicity, genetic toxicology

Materials Tested

acetone, mitomycin C, Colchicine

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