Prostate cancer is the most common malignant tumors in men but prostate Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) analysis remains challenging. Besides whole prostate gland segmentation, the capability to differentiate between the blurry boundary of the Central Gland (CG) and Peripheral Zone (PZ) can lead to differential diagnosis, since the frequency and severity of tumors differ in these regions. To tackle the prostate zonal segmentation task, we propose a novel Convolutional Neural Network (CNN), called USE-Net, which incorporates Squeeze-and-Excitation (SE) blocks into U-Net, i.e., one of the most effective CNNs in biomedical image segmentation. Especially, the SE blocks are added after every Encoder (Enc USE-Net) or Encoder-Decoder block (Enc-Dec USE-Net). This study evaluates the generalization ability of CNN-based architectures on three T2-weighted MRI datasets, each one consisting of a different number of patients and heterogeneous image characteristics, collected by different institutions. The following mixed scheme is used for training/testing: (i ) training on either each individual dataset or multiple prostate MRI datasets and (ii ) testing on all three datasets with all possible training/testing combinations. USE-Net is compared against three stateof-the-art CNN-based architectures (i.e., U-Net, pix2pix, and Mixed-Scale Dense Network), along with a semi-automatic continuous max-flow model. The results show that training on the union of the datasets generally outperforms training on each dataset separately, allowing for both intra-/crossdataset generalization. Enc USE-Net shows good overall generalization under any training condition, while Enc-Dec USE-Net remarkably outperforms the other methods when trained on all datasets. These findings reveal that the SE blocks' adaptive feature recalibration provides excellent cross-dataset generalization when testing is performed on samples of the datasets used during training. Therefore, we should consider multi-dataset training and SE
Several studies in Bioinformatics, Computational Biology and Systems Biology rely on the definition of physico-chemical or mathematical models of biological systems at different scales and levels of complexity, ranging from the interaction of atoms in single molecules up to genome-wide interaction networks. Traditional computational methods and software tools developed in these research fields share a common trait: they can be computationally demanding on Central Processing Units (CPUs), therefore limiting their applicability in many circumstances. To overcome this issue, general-purpose Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) are gaining an increasing attention by the scientific community, as they can considerably reduce the running time required by standard CPU-based software, and allow more intensive investigations of biological systems. In this review, we present a collection of GPU tools recently developed to perform computational analyses in life science disciplines, emphasizing the advantages and the drawbacks in the use of these parallel architectures. The complete list of GPU-powered tools here reviewed is available at http://bit.ly/gputools.
Medical imaging systems often require the application of image enhancement techniques to help physicians in anomaly/abnormality detection and diagnosis, as well as to improve the quality of images that undergo automated image processing. In this work we introduce MedGA, a novel image enhancement method based on Genetic Algorithms that is able to improve the appearance and the visual quality of images characterized by a bimodal gray level intensity histogram, by strengthening their two underlying sub-distributions. MedGA can be exploited as a pre-processing step for the enhancement of images with a nearly bimodal histogram distribution, to improve the results achieved by downstream image processing techniques. As a case study, we use MedGA as a clinical expert system for contrast-enhanced Magnetic Resonance image analysis, considering Magnetic Resonance guided Focused Ultrasound Surgery for uterine fibroids. The performances of MedGA are quantitatively evaluated by means of various image enhancement metrics, and compared against the conventional state-of-the-art image enhancement techniques, namely, histogram
Cell metabolism is the biochemical machinery that provides energy and building blocks to sustain life. Understanding its fine regulation is of pivotal relevance in several fields, from metabolic engineering applications to the treatment of metabolic disorders and cancer. Sophisticated computational approaches are needed to unravel the complexity of metabolism. To this aim, a plethora of methods have been developed, yet it is generally hard to identify which computational strategy is most suited for the investigation of a specific aspect of metabolism. This review provides an up-to-date description of the computational methods available for the analysis of metabolic pathways, discussing their main advantages and drawbacks. In particular, attention is devoted to the identification of the appropriate scale and level of accuracy in the reconstruction of metabolic networks, and to the inference of model structure and parameters, especially when dealing with a shortage of experimental measurements. The choice of the proper computational methods to derive in silico data is then addressed, including topological analyses, constraint-based modeling and simulation of the system dynamics. A description of some computational approaches to gain new biological knowledge or to formulate hypotheses is finally provided.
In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the Ras/cAMP/PKA pathway is involved in the regulation of cell growth and proliferation in response to nutritional sensing and stress conditions. The pathway is tightly regulated by multiple feedback loops, exerted by the protein kinase A (PKA) on a few pivotal components of the pathway. In this article, we investigate the dynamics of the second messenger cAMP by performing stochastic simulations and parameter sweep analysis of a mechanistic model of the Ras/cAMP/PKA pathway, to determine the effects that the modulation of these feedback mechanisms has on the establishment of stable oscillatory regimes. In particular, we start by studying the role of phosphodiesterases, the enzymes that catalyze the degradation of cAMP, which represent the major negative feedback in this pathway. Then, we show the results on cAMP oscillations when perturbing the amount of protein Cdc25 coupled with the alteration of the intracellular ratio of the guanine nucleotides (GTP/GDP), which are known to regulate the switch of the GTPase Ras protein. This multi-level regulation of the amplitude and frequency of oscillations in the Ras/cAMP/PKA pathway might act as a fine tuning mechanism for the downstream targets of PKA, as also recently evidenced by some experimental investigations on the nucleocytoplasmic shuttling of the transcription factor Msn2 in yeast cells.
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