Automatic Tracking of White Blood Cells

The first tracking algorithm for colliding cells.


Fig 1. White Blood Cell via a microscope

Leukocyte motion represents an important component in the innate immune response to infection. Intravital microscopy is a powerful tool as it enables in vivo imaging of leukocyte motion. In inflammatory conditions, leukocytes may exhibit various motion behaviors such as flowing, rolling, and adhering. With many cells moving at a variety of speeds, collisions occur. These collisions result in abrupt changes in the motion and appearance of leukocytes. Analyzing the motion behavior of leukocytes is a difficult task. Manual analysis is tedious, error-prone, and could introduce technician-related bias. Automatic tracking methods are also challenging due to the noise inherent in the biomedical imaging process, varied cell appearance during collision, and abrupt change in cell motion patterns. This work presents a novel method to automatically track multiple cells undergoing collisions by modeling the collision states of cells and testing multiple hypotheses of their motion and appearance. The tracking results are demonstrated using in vivo intravital microscopy image sequences. We have found that: (1) the proposed method tracks 32% more cells than a previous approach without introducing any additional position error; (2) the improvement of the proposed method is emphasized when the duration of collision increases; and (3) given good detection results, the proposed method can correctly track 88% of the total number of cells.


The project is implemented in MATLAB. The program is free for non-commericial usage. We encourage other researchers to collaborate.

CollidingCellTracker MATLAB Toolbox

Codes Documentation

Samples Data: original & results


  1. N. Nguyen, E.Norris, S. Keller, T. H. Huynh, M. Clemens, M. C. Shin. "Tracking Colliding Cells in vivo Microscopy." Biomedical Engineering, IEEE Transactions on, 58(8):2391-2400, August 2011. HTML PDF BIB TBE

  2. T. H. Huynh, N. Nguyen, S. Keller, C. Moore, M. Shin, I. McKillop. "Reducing Leukocyte Trafficking Preseves Hepatic Function after Sepsis." The Journal of Trauma, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 69(2):360-7. August 2010. HTML BIB LWW
  3. Nhat Nguyen. "Tracking Colliding Cells in vivo Microscopy Video". Master Thesis, Department of Computer Science, College of Computing and Informatics, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, December 2009. HTML PDF BIB UNCC
  4. N. Nguyen, S. Keller, T. H. Huynh, M. C. Shin. "Tracking Colliding Cells". IEEE Workshop on the Applications of Computer Visions (WACV), Snowbird, Utah December 7-8 2009. Poster PDF BibTeX WACV


Master Defense: Tracking Colliding Cells

Recording of my Master Defense on Dec 2009

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DBI-0754748.

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