Stem cell therapy could be the “wave” of the future for hair regeneration, and bioluminescence imaging could help doctors monitor treatment. The therapy has been shown to produce hair growth where other methods, including various creams and drugs, have proved less than successful. “Hair regeneration using hair stem cells is a promising therapeutic option emerging for hair loss, and molecular imaging can speed up the development of this therapy,” said Byeong-Cheol Ahn, professor and director of the department of nuclear medicine at Kyungpook National University School of Medicine and Hospital in Daegu, South Korea. Ahn’s recent study on animal models shows that the molecular imaging technique can be used to effectively track hair regeneration by stem cell therapy. Researchers currently are grafting hair stem cells in animal models to determine whether these cells can grow and multiply the way normal cells do. In this study, Ahn and colleagues conducted bioluminescence imaging using firefly luciferase together with D-luciferin on hair follicle stem cells implanted in mice to track the cells’ viability and their development into hair follicles. They performed the imaging technique on the implanted cells five times over the course of 21 days. The key finding was that molecular imaging techniques can noninvasively visualize what happens to the transplanted hair stem cells in terms of survival, death and proliferation during the formation of new hair follicles in mice. Perhaps more importantly for potential human patients, the scientists found new hair follicles on the surface of the skin samples when they examined them under the microscope. “This study is the first study of hair follicle regeneration using an in vivo molecular imaging technique,” Ahn said – which means that more studies must be conducted before clinical trials can be put in place to determine whether the therapy could work to regenerate human hair. The research was presented at the Society of Nuclear Medicine’s 2012 annual meeting and published in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine.