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ToSkA: Topological Skeleton Analysis for Network-Based Shape Representation and Evaluation of Objects from Cells to Death Stars

Allyson Quinn RyanCarl D. Modese
Nov 2023
Shape analysis and classification are popular methods for biologists, biophysicists and mathematicians investigating relationships between object function and form. Classic shape descriptors, such as sphericity, can be very powerful; however, when evaluating complex shapes, these descriptors can be insufficient for rigorous assessment. Here, we present "ToSkA: Topological Skeleton Analysis" a method to analyse complex objects by representing their shape asymmetries as networks. Using global neighbourhood principles, classic network science metrics and spatial feature embedding we are able to create unique object profiles for classification. It is also possible to track objects over time and extract significantly different shape features between experiments. Importantly, we have incorporated the capacity to measure absolute spatial features of objects (e.g., branch lengths). This adds additional layers of sensitivity to object classification. Furthermore, because topology is an inherent property of system identity, ToSkA is able to identify segmentation errors that alter object topology by observing the emergence or loss of cycles in network representations. Combined, the analytics of ToSkA presented here allow for the flexibility and in-depth shape profiling necessary for complex objects often observed in biological and physical settings where robust, yet precise, system configuration is essential to downstream processes.
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