Imaging Mass Cytometry (IMC) is an emerging multiplexed imaging technology for analyzing complex microenvironments using more than 40 molecularly-specific channels. However, this modality has unique data processing requirements, particularly for patient tissue specimens where signal-to-noise ratios for markers can be low, despite optimization, and pixel intensity artifacts can deteriorate image quality and downstream analysis. Here we demonstrate an automated content-aware pipeline, IMC-Denoise, to restore IMC images deploying a differential intensity map-based restoration (DIMR) algorithm for removing hot pixels and a self-supervised deep learning algorithm for shot noise image filtering (DeepSNiF). IMC-Denoise outperforms existing methods for adaptive hot pixel and background noise removal, with significant image quality improvement in modeled data and datasets from multiple pathologies. This includes in technically challenging human bone marrow; we achieve noise level reduction of 87% for a 5.6-fold higher contrast-to-noise ratio, and more accurate background noise removal with approximately 2 × improved F1 score. Our approach enhances manual gating and automated phenotyping with cell-scale downstream analyses. Verified by manual annotations, spatial and density analysis for targeted cell groups reveal subtle but significant differences of cell populations in diseased bone marrow. We anticipate that IMC-Denoise will provide similar benefits across mass cytometric applications to more deeply characterize complex tissue microenvironments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1601
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


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