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Quantification of immunostaining is a widely used technique in pathology. Nonetheless, techniques that rely on human vision are prone to inter- and intraobserver variability, and they are tedious and time consuming. Digital image analysis (DIA), now available in a variety of platforms, improves quantification performance: however, the stability of these different DIA systems is largely unknown. Here, we describe a method to measure the reproducibility of DIA systems. In addition, we describe a new image-processing strategy for quantitative evaluation of immunostained tissue sections using DAB/hematoxylin-stained slides. This approach is based on image subtraction, using a blue low pass filter in the optical train, followed by digital contrast and brightness enhancement. Results showed that our DIA system yields stable counts, and that this method can be used to evaluate the performance of DIA systems. The new image-processing approach creates an image that aids both human visual observation and DIA systems in assessing immunostained slides, delivers a quantitative performance similar to that of bright field imaging, gives thresholds with smaller ranges, and allows the segmentation of strongly immunostained areas, all resulting in a higher probability of representing specific staining. We believe that our approach offers important advantages to immunostaining quantification in pathology.
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