From macro-scale to micro-scale computational anatomy: a perspective on the next 20 years

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HighlightsTo show perspective of the medical image analysis are of next 20 years.To show multi-disciplinary computational anatomy would be next frontier of medical image analysis research.To propose micro computational anatomy.Graphical abstractThis paper gives our perspective on the next two decades of computational anatomy, which has made great strides in the recognition and understanding of human anatomy from conventional clinical images. The results from this field are now used in a variety of medical applications, including quantitative analysis of organ shapes, interventional assistance, surgical navigation, and population analysis. Several anatomical models have also been used in computational anatomy, and these mainly target millimeter-scale shapes. For example, liver-shape models are almost completely modeled at the millimeter scale, and shape variations are described at such scales. Most clinical 3D scanning devices have had just under 1 or 0.5 mm per voxel resolution for over 25 years, and this resolution has not changed drastically in that time. Although Z-axis (head-to-tail direction) resolution has been drastically improved by the introduction of multi-detector CT scanning devices, in-plane resolutions have not changed very much either. When we look at human anatomy, we can see different anatomical structures at different scales. For example, pulmonary blood vessels and lung lobes can be observed in millimeter-scale images. If we take 10-μm-scale images of a lung specimen, the alveoli and bronchiole regions can be located in them. Most work in millimeter-scale computational anatomy has been done by the medical-image analysis community. In the next two decades, we encourage our community to focus on micro-scale computational anatomy. In this perspective paper, we briefly review the achievements of computational anatomy and its impacts on clinical applications; furthermore, we show several possibilities from the viewpoint of microscopic computational anatomy by discussing experimental results from our recent research activities.

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