A machine learning algorithm for simulating immunohistochemistry: development of SOX10 virtual IHC and evaluation on primarily melanocytic neoplasms

Christopher R. Jackson, Aravindhan Sriharan, Louis J. Vaickus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Immunohistochemistry (IHC) is a diagnostic technique used throughout pathology. A machine learning algorithm that could predict individual cell immunophenotype based on hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining would save money, time, and reduce tissue consumed. Prior approaches have lacked the spatial accuracy needed for cell-specific analytical tasks. Here IHC performed on destained H&E slides is used to create a neural network that is potentially capable of predicting individual cell immunophenotype. Twelve slides were stained with H&E and scanned to create digital whole slide images. The H&E slides were then destained, and stained with SOX10 IHC. The SOX10 IHC slides were scanned, and corresponding H&E and IHC digital images were registered. Color-thresholding and machine learning techniques were applied to the registered H&E and IHC images to segment 3,396,668 SOX10-negative cells and 306,166 SOX10-positive cells. The resulting segmentation was used to annotate the original H&E images, and a convolutional neural network was trained to predict SOX10 nuclear staining. Sixteen thousand three hundred and nine image patches were used to train the virtual IHC (vIHC) neural network, and 1,813 image patches were used to quantitatively evaluate it. The resulting vIHC neural network achieved an area under the curve of 0.9422 in a receiver operator characteristics analysis when sorting individual nuclei. The vIHC network was applied to additional images from clinical practice, and was evaluated qualitatively by a board-certified dermatopathologist. Further work is needed to make the process more efficient and accurate for clinical use. This proof-of-concept demonstrates the feasibility of creating neural network-driven vIHC assays.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1638-1648
Number of pages11
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

Cite this