Background: Computer-aided methods for analyzing white blood cells (WBC) are popular due to the complexity of the manual alternatives. Recent works have shown highly accurate segmentation and detection of white blood cells from microscopic blood images. However, the classification of the observed cells is still a challenge, in part due to the distribution of the five types that affect the condition of the immune system.
Methods: (i) This work proposes W-Net, a CNN-based method for WBC classification. We evaluate W-Net on a real-world large-scale dataset that includes 6,562 real images of the five WBC types. (ii) For further benefits, we generate synthetic WBC images using Generative Adversarial Network to be used for education and research purposes through sharing.
Results: (i) W-Net achieves an average accuracy of 97%. In comparison to state-of-the-art methods in the field of WBC classification, we show that W-Net outperforms other CNN- and RNN-based model architectures. Moreover, we show the benefits of using pre-trained W-Net in a transfer learning context when fine-tuned to specific task or accommodating another dataset. (ii) The synthetic WBC images are confirmed by experiments and a domain expert to have a high degree of similarity to the original images. The pre-trained W-Net and the generated WBC dataset are available for the community to facilitate reproducibility and follow up research work.
Conclusion: This work proposed W-Net, a CNN-based architecture with a small number of layers, to accurately classify the five WBC types. We evaluated W-Net on a real-world large-scale dataset and addressed several challenges such as the transfer learning property and the class imbalance. W-Net achieved an average classification accuracy of 97%. We synthesized a dataset of new WBC image samples using DCGAN, which we released to the public for education and research purposes.