Data science in cell imaging

Meghan K. Driscoll, Assaf Zaritsky

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Cell imaging has entered the ‘Big Data’ era. New technologies in light microscopy and molecular biology have led to an explosion in high-content, dynamic and multidimensional imaging data. Similar to the ‘omics’ fields two decades ago, our current ability to process, visualize, integrate and mine this new generation of cell imaging data is becoming a critical bottleneck in advancing cell biology. Computation, traditionally used to quantitatively test specific hypotheses, must now also enable iterative hypothesis generation and testing by deciphering hidden biologically meaningful patterns in complex, dynamic or high-dimensional cell image data. Data science is uniquely positioned to aid in this process. In this Perspective, we survey the rapidly expanding new field of data science in cell imaging. Specifically, we highlight how data science tools are used within current image analysis pipelines, propose a computation-first approach to derive new hypotheses from cell image data, identify challenges and describe the next frontiers where we believe data science will make an impact. We also outline steps to ensure broad access to these powerful tools – democratizing infrastructure availability, developing sensitive, robust and usable tools, and promoting interdisciplinary training to both familiarize biologists with data science and expose data scientists to cell imaging.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjcs254292
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • Data science
  • Deep learning
  • Imaging
  • Machine learning
  • Microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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