BACKGROUND: The identification of live cells using membrane integrity dyes has become a frequently used technique, especially with articular cartilage and chondrocytes in situ where tissue slices are used to assess cell recovery as a function of location. The development of a reproducible computerised method of cell evaluation would eliminate many variables associated with manual counting and significantly reduce the amount of time required to evaluate experimental results. METHODS: To validate a custom computerised counting program, intra-person and inter-person cell counts of nine human evaluators (three groups - unskilled, novice, and experienced) were compared with repeated pixel counts of the custom program on 15 digitised images (in triplicate) of chondrocytes in situ stained with fluorescent dyes. RESULTS: Results indicated increased reproducibility with increased experience within evaluators [Intraclass Correlation Coefficient (ICC) range = 0.67 (unskilled) to 0.99 (experienced)] and between evaluators [ICC = 0.47 (unskilled), 0.85 (novice), 0.93 (experienced)]. The computer program had perfect reproducibility (ICC = 1.0). There was a significant relationship between the average of the experienced evaluators results and the custom program results (ICC = 0.77). CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrated that increased experience in cell counting resulted in increased reproducibility both within and between human evaluators but confirmed that the computer program was the most reproducible. There was a good correlation between the intact cell recovery determined by the computer program and the experienced human evaluators. The results of this study showed that the computer counting program was a reproducible tool to evaluate intact cell recovery after use of membrane integrity dyes on chondrocytes in situ. This and the significant decrease in the time used to count the cells by the computer program advocate its use in future studies because it has significant advantages.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine