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MAESTER: Masked Autoencoder Guided Segmentation at Pixel Resolution for Accurate, Self-Supervised Subcellular Structure Recognition

Ronald Xie · Kuan Pang · Gary D. Bader · Bo Wang

West Building Exhibit Halls ABC 313
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Accurate segmentation of cellular images remains an elusive task due to the intrinsic variability in morphology of biological structures. Complete manual segmentation is unfeasible for large datasets, and while supervised methods have been proposed to automate segmentation, they often rely on manually generated ground truths which are especially challenging and time consuming to generate in biology due to the requirement of domain expertise. Furthermore, these methods have limited generalization capacity, requiring additional manual labels to be generated for each dataset and use case. We introduce MAESTER (Masked AutoEncoder guided SegmenTation at pixEl Resolution), a self-supervised method for accurate, subcellular structure segmentation at pixel resolution. MAESTER treats segmentation as a representation learning and clustering problem. Specifically, MAESTER learns semantically meaningful token representations of multi-pixel image patches while simultaneously maintaining a sufficiently large field of view for contextual learning. We also develop a cover-and-stride inference strategy to achieve pixel-level subcellular structure segmentation. We evaluated MAESTER on a publicly available volumetric electron microscopy (VEM) dataset of primary mouse pancreatic islets beta cells and achieved upwards of 29.1% improvement over state-of-the-art under the same evaluation criteria. Furthermore, our results are competitive against supervised methods trained on the same tasks, closing the gap between self-supervised and supervised approaches. MAESTER shows promise for alleviating the critical bottleneck of ground truth generation for imaging related data analysis and thereby greatly increasing the rate of biological discovery.

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