Artificial intelligence applications for pre-implantation kidney biopsy pathology practice: a systematic review.

I. Girolami, L. Pantanowitz, S. Marletta, M. Hermsen, J. van der Laak, E. Munari, L. Furian, F. Vistoli, G. Zaza, M. Cardillo, L. Gesualdo, G. Gambaro and A. Eccher

Journal of nephrology 2022.


Transplant nephropathology is a highly specialized field of pathology comprising both the evaluation of organ donor biopsy for organ allocation and post-transplant graft biopsy for assessment of rejection or graft damage. The introduction of digital pathology with whole-slide imaging (WSI) in clinical research, trials and practice has catalyzed the application of artificial intelligence (AI) for histopathology, with development of novel machine-learning models for tissue interrogation and discovery. We aimed to review the literature for studies specifically applying AI algorithms to WSI-digitized pre-implantation kidney biopsy. A systematic search was carried out in the electronic databases PubMed-MEDLINE and Embase until 25th September, 2021 with a combination of the key terms "kidney", "biopsy", "transplantation" and "artificial intelligence" and their aliases. Studies dealing with the application of AI algorithms coupled with WSI in pre-implantation kidney biopsies were included. The main theme addressed was detection and quantification of tissue components. Extracted data were: author, year and country of the study, type of biopsy features investigated, number of cases, type of algorithm deployed, main results of the study in terms of diagnostic outcome, and the main limitations of the study. Of 5761 retrieved articles, 7 met our inclusion criteria. All studies focused largely on AI-based detection and classification of glomerular structures and to a lesser extent on tubular and vascular structures. Performance of AI algorithms was excellent and promising. All studies highlighted the importance of expert pathologist annotation to reliably train models and the need to acknowledge clinical nuances of the pre-implantation setting. Close cooperation between computer scientists and practicing as well as expert renal pathologists is needed, helping to refine the performance of AI-based models for routine pre-implantation kidney biopsy clinical practice.