Automatic scoring of dicentric chromosomes as a tool in large scale radiation accidents.
Mass casualty scenarios of radiation exposure require high throughput biological dosimetry techniques for population triage in order to rapidly identify individuals who require clinical treatment. The manual dicentric assay is a highly suitable technique, but it is also very time consuming and requires well trained scorers. In the framework of the MULTIBIODOSE EU FP7 project, semi-automated dicentric scoring has been established in six European biodosimetry laboratories. Whole blood was irradiated with a Co-60 gamma source resulting in 8 different doses between 0 and 4.5Gy and then shipped to the six participating laboratories. To investigate two different scoring strategies, cell cultures were set up with short term (2-3h) or long term (24h) colcemid treatment. Three classifiers for automatic dicentric detection were applied, two of which were developed specifically for these two different culture techniques. The automation procedure included metaphase finding, capture of cells at high resolution and detection of dicentric candidates. The automatically detected dicentric candidates were then evaluated by a trained human scorer, which led to the term 'semi-automated' being applied to the analysis. The six participating laboratories established at least one semi-automated calibration curve each, using the appropriate classifier for their colcemid treatment time. There was no significant difference between the calibration curves established, regardless of the classifier used. The ratio of false positive to true positive dicentric candidates was dose dependent. The total staff effort required for analysing 150 metaphases using the semi-automated approach was 2min as opposed to 60min for manual scoring of 50 metaphases. Semi-automated dicentric scoring is a useful tool in a large scale radiation accident as it enables high throughput screening of samples for fast triage of potentially exposed individuals. Furthermore, the results from the participating laboratories were comparable which supports networking between laboratories for this assay.