Copyright © 2013 Erik Cuevas et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Medical imaging is a relevant field of application of image processing algorithms. In particular, the analysis of white blood cell (WBC) images has engaged researchers from fields of medicine and computer vision alike. Since WBCs can be approximated by a quasicircular form, a circular detector algorithm may be successfully applied. This paper presents an algorithm for the automatic detection of white blood cells embedded into complicated and cluttered smear images that considers the complete process as a circle detection problem. The approach is based on a nature-inspired technique called the electromagnetism-like optimization (EMO) algorithm which is a heuristic method that follows electromagnetism principles for solving complex optimization problems. The proposed approach uses an objective function which measures the resemblance of a candidate circle to an actual WBC. Guided by the values of such objective function, the set of encoded candidate circles are evolved by using EMO, so that they can fit into the actual blood cells contained in the edge map of the image. Experimental results from blood cell images with a varying range of complexity are included to validate the efficiency of the proposed technique regarding detection, robustness, and stability.