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In Lasers in surgery and medicine

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES : One of the challenges in developing effective hair loss therapies is the lack of reliable methods to monitor treatment response or alopecia progression. In this study, we propose the use of optical coherence tomography (OCT) and automated deep learning to non-invasively evaluate hair and follicle counts that may be used to monitor the success of hair growth therapy more accurately and efficiently.

STUDY DESIGN/MATERIALS AND METHODS : We collected 70 OCT scans from 14 patients with alopecia and trained a convolutional neural network (CNN) to automatically count all follicles present in the scans. The model is based on a dual approach of both detecting hair follicles and estimating the local hair density in order to give accurate counts even for cases where two or more adjacent hairs are in close proximity to each other.

RESULTS : We evaluate our system on 70 OCT manually labeled scans taken at different scalp locations from 14 patients, with 20 of those redundantly labeled by two human expert OCT operators. When comparing the individual human predictions and considering the exact locations of hair and follicle predictions, we find that the two human raters disagree with each other on approximately 22% of hairs and follicles. Overall, the deep learning (DL) system predicts the number of follicles with an error rate of 11.8% and the number of hairs with an error rate of 18.7% on average on the 70 scans. The OCT system can capture one scalp location in three seconds, and the DL model can make all predictions in less than a second after processing the scan, which takes half a minute using an unoptimized implementation.

CONCLUSION : This approach is well-positioned to become the standard for non-invasive evaluation of hair growth treatment progress in patients, saving significant amounts of time and effort compared with manual evaluation. Lasers Surg. Med. © 2020 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Urban Gregor, Feil Nate, Csuka Ella, Hashemi Kiana, Ekelem Chloe, Choi Franchesca, Mesinkovska Natasha A, Baldi Pierre


OCT, alopecia, convolutional neural network, deep learning, hair loss, machine learning, optical coherence tomography