Automated thermal imaging for the detection of fatty liver disease

Rafael Y. Brzezinski, Lapaz Levin-Kotler, Neta Rabin, Zehava Ovadia-Blechman, Yair Zimmer, Adi Sternfeld, Joanna Molad Finchelman, Razan Unis, Nir Lewis, Olga Tepper-Shaihov, Nili Naftali-Shani, Nora Balint-Lahat, Michal Safran, Ziv Ben-Ari, Ehud Grossman, Jonathan Leor*, Oshrit Hoffer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) comprises a spectrum of progressive liver pathologies, ranging from simple steatosis to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), fibrosis and cirrhosis. A liver biopsy is currently required to stratify high-risk patients, and predicting the degree of liver inflammation and fibrosis using non-invasive tests remains challenging. Here, we sought to develop a novel, cost-effective screening tool for NAFLD based on thermal imaging. We used a commercially available and non-invasive thermal camera and developed a new image processing algorithm to automatically predict disease status in a small animal model of fatty liver disease. To induce liver steatosis and inflammation, we fed C57/black female mice (8 weeks old) a methionine-choline deficient diet (MCD diet) for 6 weeks. We evaluated structural and functional liver changes by serial ultrasound studies, histopathological analysis, blood tests for liver enzymes and lipids, and measured liver inflammatory cell infiltration by flow cytometry. We developed an image processing algorithm that measures relative spatial thermal variation across the skin covering the liver. Thermal parameters including temperature variance, homogeneity levels and other textural features were fed as input to a t-SNE dimensionality reduction algorithm followed by k-means clustering. During weeks 3,4, and 5 of the experiment, our algorithm demonstrated a 100% detection rate and classified all mice correctly according to their disease status. Direct thermal imaging of the liver confirmed the presence of changes in surface thermography in diseased livers. We conclude that non-invasive thermal imaging combined with advanced image processing and machine learning-based analysis successfully correlates surface thermography with liver steatosis and inflammation in mice. Future development of this screening tool may improve our ability to study, diagnose and treat liver disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15532
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020


FundersFunder number
Tel Aviv University
Nicholas and Elizabeth Slezak Super Center for Cardiac Research and Biomedical Engineering


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