Machine learning assisted real-time deformability cytometry of CD34+ cells allows to identify patients with myelodysplastic syndromes

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) mainly relies on a manual assessment of the peripheral blood and bone marrow cell morphology. The WHO guidelines suggest a visual screening of 200 to 500 cells which inevitably turns the assessor blind to rare cell populations and leads to low reproducibility. Moreover, the human eye is not suited to detect shifts of cellular properties of entire populations. Hence, quantitative image analysis could improve the accuracy and reproducibility of MDS diagnosis. We used real-time deformability cytometry (RT-DC) to measure bone marrow biopsy samples of MDS patients and age-matched healthy individuals. RT-DC is a high-throughput (1000 cells/s) imaging flow cytometer capable of recording morphological and mechanical properties of single cells. Properties of single cells were quantified using automated image analysis, and machine learning was employed to discover morpho-mechanical patterns in thousands of individual cells that allow to distinguish healthy vs. MDS samples. We found that distribution properties of cell sizes differ between healthy and MDS, with MDS showing a narrower distribution of cell sizes. Furthermore, we found a strong correlation between the mechanical properties of cells and the number of disease-determining mutations, inaccessible with current diagnostic approaches. Hence, machine-learning assisted RT-DC could be a promising tool to automate sample analysis to assist experts during diagnosis or provide a scalable solution for MDS diagnosis to regions lacking sufficient medical experts.


Original languageEnglish
Article number(2022) 12:870
Number of pages8
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2022

External IDs

PubMedCentral PMC8766444
Scopus 85123094047
ORCID /0000-0002-8691-8423/work/142236013


Sustainable Development Goals


  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes