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Deep learning automation of MEST-C classification in IgA nephropathy

Although the MEST-C classification is among the best prognostic tools in immunoglobulin A nephropathy (IgAN), it has a wide interobserver variability between specialized pathologists and others. Therefore we trained and evaluated a tool using a neural network to automate the MEST- C grading.

Biopsies of patients with IgAN were divided into three independent groups: the Training cohort (n = 42) to train the network, the Test cohort (n = 66) to compare its pixel segmentation to that made by pathologists and the Application cohort (n = 88) to compare the MEST-C scores computed by the network or by pathologists.

In the Test cohort, >73% of pixels were correctly identified by the network as M, E, S or C. In the Application cohort, the neural network area under the receiver operating characteristics curves were 0.88, 0.91, 0.88, 0.94, 0.96, 0.96 and 0.92 to predict M1, E1, S1, T1, T2, C1 and C2, respectively. The kappa coefficients between pathologists and the network assessments were substantial for E, S, T and C scores (kappa scores of 0.68, 0.79, 0.73 and 0.70, respectively) and moderate for M score (kappa score of 0.52). Network S and T scores were associated with the occurrence of the composite survival endpoint (death, dialysis, transplantation or doubling of serum creatinine) [hazard ratios 9.67 (P = .006) and 7.67 (P < .001), respectively].

This work highlights the possibility of auto- mated recognition and quantification of each element of the MEST-C classification using deep learning methods.

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