A neural cell detection system (NCDS) for the automatic quantitation of fluorescent lymphocytes in tissue sections was used to analyze CD26 expression in muscle-invasive T-cells. CD26 is a cell surface dipeptidyl-peptidase IV (DPP IV) involved in co-stimulatory activation of T-cells and also in adhesive events. The NCDS system acquires visual knowledge from a set of training cell image patches selected by a user. The trained system evaluates an image in 2 min calculating (i) the number, (ii) the positions and (iii) the phenotypes of the fluorescent cells. In the present study we have used the NCDS to identity DPP IV (CD26) expressing invasive lymphocytes in sarcoid myopathy and to analyze the associated cell surface phenotypes. We find highly unusual phenotypes characterized by differential combination of seven cell surface receptors usually involved in co-stimulatory events in T-lymphocytes. The data support a differential adhesive rather than a co-stimulatory role of CD26 in muscle-invasive cells. The adaptability of the NCDS algorithm to diverse types of cells should enable us to approach any invasion process, including invasion of malignant cells.