Integrating spatial gene expression and breast tumour morphology via deep learning

Bryan He, Ludvig Bergenstråhle, Linnea Stenbeck, Abubakar Abid, Alma Andersson, Åke Borg, Jonas Maaskola, Joakim Lundeberg, James Zou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spatial transcriptomics allows for the measurement of RNA abundance at a high spatial resolution, making it possible to systematically link the morphology of cellular neighbourhoods and spatially localized gene expression. Here, we report the development of a deep learning algorithm for the prediction of local gene expression from haematoxylin-and-eosin-stained histopathology images using a new dataset of 30,612 spatially resolved gene expression data matched to histopathology images from 23 patients with breast cancer. We identified over 100 genes, including known breast cancer biomarkers of intratumoral heterogeneity and the co-localization of tumour growth and immune activation, the expression of which can be predicted from the histopathology images at a resolution of 100 µm. We also show that the algorithm generalizes well to The Cancer Genome Atlas and to other breast cancer gene expression datasets without the need for re-training. Predicting the spatially resolved transcriptome of a tissue directly from tissue images may enable image-based screening for molecular biomarkers with spatial variation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)827-834
Number of pages8
JournalNature Biomedical Engineering
Issue number8
Early online date2020 Jun 22
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Aug

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Medical Image Processing


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