Batch equalization with a generative adversarial network

Wesley Wei Qian, Cassandra Xia, Subhashini Venugopalan, Arunachalam Narayanaswamy, Michelle Dimon, George W Ashdown, Jake Baum, Jian Peng, D Michael Ando

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motivation: Advances in automation and imaging have made it possible to capture a large image dataset that spans multiple experimental batches of data. However, accurate biological comparison across the batches is challenged by batch-to-batch variation (i.e. batch effect) due to uncontrollable experimental noise (e.g. varying stain intensity or cell density). Previous approaches to minimize the batch effect have commonly focused on normalizing the low-dimensional image measurements such as an embedding generated by a neural network. However, normalization of the embedding could suffer from over-correction and alter true biological features (e.g. cell size) due to our limited ability to interpret the effect of the normalization on the embedding space. Although techniques like flat-field correction can be applied to normalize the image values directly, they are limited transformations that handle only simple artifacts due to batch effect. Results: We present a neural network-based batch equalization method that can transfer images from one batch to another while preserving the biological phenotype. The equalization method is trained as a generative adversarial network (GAN), using the StarGAN architecture that has shown considerable ability in style transfer. After incorporating new objectives that disentangle batch effect from biological features, we show that the equalized images have less batch information and preserve the biological information. We also demonstrate that the same model training parameters can generalize to two dramatically different types of cells, indicating this approach could be broadly applicable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)i875-i883
JournalBioinformatics (Oxford, England)
Issue numberSupplement_2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mathematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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