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Patent Bid Showcases Oleocanthal’s Versatility

Sep. 19, 2013
Julie Butler

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Oleocanthal — the part of extra vir­gin olive oil that stings the throat — is a mar­ket­ing oppor­tu­nity yet to be tapped, accord­ing to the American research cen­ter that iso­lated and named it.

Monell Chemical Senses Center Director of Technology Transfer, Mark Friedman, says the poten­tial of the com­pound just keeps grow­ing.

Inflammation is a com­po­nent of so many dis­eases and con­di­tions that the poten­tial as an anti-inflam­ma­tory alone is enor­mous. There is much excit­ing research being done on oleo­can­thal’s health effects, and not just at Monell,” he said.

We believe oleo­can­thal is a com­mer­cially valu­able oppor­tu­nity wait­ing to hap­pen. All it would take is the right com­mit­ment and invest­ment.”

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Serendipitous dis­cov­ery

Olive oil is ancient but oleo­can­thal was dis­cov­ered rel­a­tively recently.

Philadelphia-based Monell started down the path after its direc­tor, Gary Beauchamp, sipped fresh extra-vir­gin olive oil while in Sicily in 1999 and noticed the sting he felt in his throat was like a liq­uid form of non­s­teroidal anti-inflam­ma­to­ries (NSAIDs) he had swal­lowed dur­ing sen­sory stud­ies.

Collaborating with the nearby University of Pennsylvania, the sci­en­tists later iso­lated the nat­ural agent they believed was respon­si­ble — deace­toxy­di­alde­hy­dic ligstro­side agly­cone, one of many polyphe­nols in olive oil — and found that a syn­thetic ver­sion of it pro­duced the same throat irri­ta­tion. It was named oleo­can­thal: oleo=olive; canth=sting; al=aldehyde.

Monell filed for a U.S. fed­eral trade­mark reg­is­tra­tion for Oleocanthal in 2005 but did not pro­ceed with it.

International patent sought

Now the University and Monell are seek­ing a world­wide patent and their appli­ca­tion show­cases a wide range of uses for the com­pound.

Though titled Oleocanthal for treat­ing pain,” the patent appli­ca­tion, pub­lished in April by the World Intellectual Property Organization, claims oleo­can­thal can also be used as an anti-inflam­ma­tory for treat­ing or pre­vent­ing many dis­eases, includ­ing Alzheimer’s, and as an anti-oxi­dant to fight can­cer and pro­mote wound heal­ing.

The inven­tion relates to the active prin­ci­pal in olive oil, termed oleo­can­thal, and meth­ods of using oleo­can­thals in var­i­ous for­mu­la­tions includ­ing, food addi­tives, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, cos­met­ics, ani­mal repel­lants, and dis­cov­ery tools for mam­malian irri­ta­tion recep­tor genes, gene prod­ucts, alle­les, splice vari­ants, alter­nate tran­scripts and the like,” it says.

Oleocanthal can make infe­rior oils taste like extra vir­gin olive oil

First in the Uses of Oleocanthals” sec­tion of the appli­ca­tion is as a food addi­tive”, and an aspect that some in the fraud-prone olive oil sec­tor might find unset­tling.

The oleo­can­thals of the inven­tion pro­vide the char­ac­ter­is­tic irri­ta­tion sen­sa­tion found in pre­mium olive oils. The oleo­can­thals may be added to lower grade oils to pro­vide for an oil that tastes like pre­mium extra vir­gin olive oil,” it says.

Friedman told Olive Oil Times that the appli­ca­tion pub­lished this year dated back to an ini­tial fil­ing in 2006. Since then, the large num­ber of patent claims in the orig­i­nal appli­ca­tion had been split by patent exam­in­ers into smaller groups cov­er­ing dif­fer­ent aspects of the inven­tion.

What will be patented is dif­fer­ent from this orig­i­nal appli­ca­tion.”

Going for­ward, Monell has no plans and no inter­est in pur­su­ing patent claims directed to the use of oleo­can­thal as a fla­vor com­pound.”

We are a non-profit orga­ni­za­tion with a respon­si­bil­ity to con­tribute to the pub­lic good and want to focus on the health ben­e­fits of oleo­can­thal,” he said.

Myriad uses for oleo­can­thal

Oleocanthal can be extracted from olives or extra vir­gin olive oil, but Friedman said the high­est con­cen­tra­tions are found in the lat­ter. A method of mak­ing syn­thetic oleo­can­thal — from the inex­pen­sive and read­ily avail­able sim­ple sugar D‑ribose — is also described in the patent appli­ca­tion and he said a patent might also be sought for the method.

Among the uses Monell claims for oleo­can­thal are:

  • Food addi­tive: oleo­can­thal be used to enhance food fla­vor and inhibit sweet­ness, and as an irri­tant to add to gas­tro­nomic expe­ri­ence” in a sim­i­lar way to chili and Szechwan pep­per. It can also add to the sen­sory-irri­ta­tion expe­ri­ence” of prod­ucts such as tooth­paste, mouth­wash, and lozenges.
  • Preservative: oleocanthal’s anti-bac­te­r­ial and anti­fun­gal prop­er­ties allow it to act as a preser­v­a­tive, such as to coat food before pack­ag­ing or be applied to food pack­ag­ing to pre­vent spoilage.
  • Cold and flu aid: oleo­can­thal can be used to treat cold or flu symp­toms, includ­ing as counter-irri­tants for sore throats and in nasal decon­ges­tants.
  • Antioxidant: because oleo­can­thal is believed to have anti-oxi­dant activ­ity it can also be used to treat or pre­vent var­i­ous con­di­tions includ­ing can­cer, to pro­mote wound heal­ing, and used to pro­vide oxi­da­tion sta­bil­ity in cos­met­ics.
  • Pain relief: use­ful for pain relief asso­ci­ated with con­di­tions includ­ing influenza or other viral infec­tions, com­mon cold, low back and neck pain, dys­men­or­rhea, headache, toothache, sprains and strains, burns and arthri­tis.
  • Anti-inflam­ma­tory: as an agent for treat­ing or pre­vent­ing dis­eases marked by inflam­ma­tion.
  • Treatment or pre­ven­tion of the devel­op­ment of Alzheimer’s asso­ci­ated brain plaques: it is believed that like ibupro­fen, oleo­can­thal inhibits micro‑G pro­teins and asso­ci­ated kinases.
  • For oral surgery and oral irra­di­a­tion treat­ment of can­cer: as an oral rinse to inhibit inflam­ma­tion from surgery or oral irra­di­a­tion.
  • Animal repel­lent: includ­ing to repel domes­tic cats, rodents, rac­coons, dogs, and coy­otes, and to deter birds from using non-potable liq­uids such as waste water and free­stand­ing water on air­port run­ways, park­ing lots, etc.

Research con­tin­ues on treat­ing inflam­ma­tion, Alzheimer’s dis­ease and can­cer

Friedman said he was not aware of any such oleo­can­thal-based appli­ca­tions already on sale.

Monell is not a com­mer­cial enter­prise and we depend on busi­nesses and entre­pre­neurs to take our inven­tions to mar­ket,” he said.

Meanwhile, the cen­ter is con­tin­u­ing to explore oleocanthal’s role as an anti-inflam­ma­tory, in pre­vent­ing and treat­ing Alzheimer’s dis­ease, and in can­cer treat­ment.

Monell sci­en­tist Paul Breslin said in vitro oleo­can­thal had been shown to have anti-inflam­ma­tory prop­er­ties on enzymes, cells, and tis­sues, to inter­fere with for­ma­tion of Alzheimer pep­tides and oligomers — namely Tau and Abeta, and to kill can­cer cell lines as well as not kill healthy cell lines.”

We are con­tin­u­ing our inter­ests in all three areas and are work­ing on Abeta and can­cer cells,” he said.

There is room there to explore vas­cu­lar health and the role dietary oleo­can­thal may play in this regard­ing heart dis­ease, strokes and other vas­cu­lar dis­eases, but we are not there just yet.”

It is a rapidly grow­ing field of trans­la­tional and med­ical research and is very excit­ing for its cur­rent promise given the results that we are see­ing,” Breslin said.



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