Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 887–896 | Cite as

Emu Oil Increases Colonic Crypt Depth in a Rat Model of Ulcerative Colitis

  • Suzanne M. Abimosleh
  • Ruth J. Lindsay
  • Ross N. Butler
  • Adrian G. Cummins
  • Gordon S. HowarthEmail author
Original Article



Current treatments for the inflammatory bowel diseases, encompassing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are variably effective. Emu oil, extracted from emu fat, predominantly comprises fatty acids, with purported claims of anti-inflammatory properties.


We evaluated emu oil for its potential to ameliorate dextran sulphate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis in rats.


Male Sprague–Dawley Rats were allocated to treatment groups (n = 8). Groups 1 and 2 consumed water and were gavaged (1 ml) daily with water (group 1) or emu oil (group 2) from days 0 to 10. Groups 3–6 ingested 2% DSS in the drinking water from days 5 to 10 and were gavaged from days 0 to 10 with water (group 3), 0.5 ml emu oil (group 4) or 1 ml emu oil (group 5). Group 6 received 1 ml emu oil after commencing DSS treatment (days 6–10). Disease activity index, metabolic parameters, 13C-sucrose breath test, and histological colonic damage severity and crypt depth were assessed.


Emu oil in DSS-treated rats reduced colonic damage severity compared to DSS-controls (up to threefold; P < 0.001). In DSS-treated rats, crypts in the proximal colon were lengthened by 0.5 ml emu oil (373 ± 18 μm), compared with DSS-controls (302 ± 8 μm); whilst in the distal colon (DSS control: 271 ± 17 μm), crypt depth was greater following 0.5 ml emu oil (352 ± 22 μm) and 1 ml emu oil (341 ± 9 μm) and also when emu oil was administered post-DSS commencement (Group 6: 409 ± 16 μm; P < 0.05). Emu oil did not significantly affect other parameters of colonic architecture.


Emu oil improved tissue damage associated with colitis, suggesting its potential as a unique formulation to augment conventional treatment approaches for IBD.


Emu oil Inflammatory bowel disease Dextran sulphate sodium Colitis Rat 



The authors would like to thank Kerry Lymn for a substantial contribution towards planning and conducting the animal trials, Esther Burt for Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry analyses and Chris Gregory and Geoff Lean from Emu Tracks Pty Ltd, Marleston, South Australia for their technical advice. S.M.A. conducted all animal trials and data analyses and prepared the manuscript. R.J.L. assisted with animal trials and data analyses. R. N. B. and A.G.C. assisted with analysis of data. G. S. H. contributed to the experimental design, analysis of data and manuscript preparation. Suzanne Mashtoub Abimosleh was granted The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Research Foundation Scholarship. Professor Gordon Howarth is supported by the Sally Birch Cancer Council Australia Research Fellowship in Cancer Control. This project was funded in part by Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. No other conflicts of interest or financial agreements are in place.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suzanne M. Abimosleh
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Ruth J. Lindsay
    • 4
  • Ross N. Butler
    • 1
    • 5
  • Adrian G. Cummins
    • 2
  • Gordon S. Howarth
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Gastroenterology DepartmentChildren, Youth and Women’s Health ServiceNorth AdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Gastroenterology DepartmentThe Queen Elizabeth HospitalWoodville NorthAustralia
  3. 3.Discipline of Physiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Medical SciencesThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  4. 4.School of Animal and Veterinary SciencesThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  5. 5.Paediatric Education and Research InstituteSansom Institute for Health ResearchAdelaideAustralia

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