Ratite oils promote keratinocyte cell growth and inhibit leukocyte activation

Poult Sci. 2015 Sep;94(9):2288-96. doi: 10.3382/ps/pev204. Epub 2015 Jul 27.


Traditionally, native Australian aborigines have used emu oil for the treatment of inflammation and to accelerate wound healing. Studies on mice suggest that topically applied emu oil may have anti-inflammatory properties and may promote wound healing. We investigated the effects of ratite oils (6 emu, 3 ostrich, 1 rhea) on immortalized human keratinocytes (HaCaT cells) in vitro by culturing the cells in media with oil concentrations of 0%, 0.5%, and 1.0%. Peking duck, tea tree, and olive oils were used as comparative controls. The same oils at 0.5% concentration were evaluated for their influence on peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) survival over 48 hr and their ability to inhibit IFNγ production in PBMCs activated by phytohemagglutinin (PHA) in ELISpot assays. Compared to no oil control, significantly shorter population doubling time durations were observed for HaCaT cells cultured in emu oil (1.51×faster), ostrich oil (1.46×faster), and rhea oil (1.64×faster). Tea tree oil demonstrated significant antiproliferative activity and olive oil significantly prolonged (1.35×slower) cell population doubling time. In contrast, almost all oils, particularly tea tree oil, significantly reduced PBMC viability. Different oils had different levels of inhibitory effect on IFNγ production with individual emu, ostrich, rhea, and duck oil samples conferring full inhibition. This preliminary investigation suggests that emu oil might promote wound healing by accelerating the growth rate of keratinocytes. Combined with anti-inflammatory properties, ratite oil may serve as a useful component in bandages and ointments for the treatment of wounds and inflammatory skin conditions.

Keywords: Emu oil; anti-inflammatory; keratinocyte growth; skin; wound treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Ducks
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / drug effects*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / drug effects*
  • Oils / pharmacology*
  • Olive Oil
  • Palaeognathae*
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology
  • Tea Tree Oil / pharmacology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Oils
  • Olive Oil
  • Plant Oils
  • emu Oil
  • Tea Tree Oil