An adaptive non-local means filter for denoising live-cell images and improving particle detection

Lei Yang, Richard Parton, Graeme Ball, Zhen Qiu, Alan H. Greenaway, Ilan Davis, Weiping Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Fluorescence imaging of dynamical processes in live cells often results in a low signal-to-noise ratio. We present a novel feature-preserving non-local means approach to denoise such images to improve feature recovery and particle detection. The commonly used non-local means filter is not optimal for noisy biological images containing small features of interest because image noise prevents accurate determination of the correct coefficients for averaging, leading to over-smoothing and other artifacts. Our adaptive method addresses this problem by constructing a particle feature probability image, which is based on Haar-like feature extraction. The particle probability image is then used to improve the estimation of the correct coefficients for averaging. We show that this filter achieves higher peak signal-to-noise ratio in denoised images and has a greater capability in identifying weak particles when applied to synthetic data. We have applied this approach to live-cell images resulting in enhanced detection of end-binding-protein 1 foci on dynamically extending microtubules in photo-sensitive Drosophila tissues. We show that our feature-preserving non-local means filter can reduce the threshold of imaging conditions required to obtain meaningful data. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-243
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Structural Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • Denoising
  • Drosophila
  • Feature extraction
  • Microtubules
  • Non-local means filter
  • Particle detection


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