Inhibitory activities of omega-3 Fatty acids and traditional african remedies on keloid fibroblasts

Wounds. 2011 Apr;23(4):97-106.


Keloids develop when scar tissue responds to skin trauma with proliferative fibrous growths that extend beyond the boundaries of the original wound and progress for several months or years. Keloids most frequently occur in individuals of indigenous sub-Saharan African origin. The etiology for keloids is still unknown and treatment can be problematic as patients respond differently to various treatment modalities. Keloids have a high rate of recurrence following surgical excision. Some West African patients claim to have had successful outcomes with traditional African remedies-boa constrictor oil (BCO) and shea butter-leading the authors to investigate their effects on cultured fibroblasts. The effects of emulsions of BCO, fish oil, isolated omega-3 fatty acids, and shea butter were tested in comparison to triamcinolone regarding inhibition of cell growth in keloid and control fibroblast cultures. In a series of controlled studies, it was observed that fish oil and BCO were more effective than triamcinolone, and that cis-5, 8, 11, 14, 17-eicosapentaenoic acid was more effective than -linolenic acid. While cell counts in control cultures continuously decreased over a period of 5 days, cell counts in keloid cultures consistently declined between day 1 and day 3, and then increased between day 3 and day 5 for all tested reagents except for fish oil. These results suggest that oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids may be effective in reducing actively proliferating keloid fibroblasts. Additional studies are warranted to investigate whether oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids offer effective and affordable treatment for some keloid patients, especially in the developing world.