Squalene in Virgin Olive Oil May Help Tissue Repair

Squalenes, a compound found in virgin olive oil, might help cicatrization and tissue repair according to a research study by the University of Jaén.

Oct. 22, 2018
By Rosa Gonzalez-Lamas

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The role squalenes exert in the immunomod­u­la­tion of proin­flam­ma­tory macrophages sug­gests that this com­pound found in vir­gin olive oil might ben­e­fit tis­sue repair and the cica­triza­tion of wounds.

This is the main find­ing of a research study under­taken by Spain’s Uni­ver­sity of Jaén to iden­tify spe­cific com­po­nents of vir­gin olive oil that are respon­si­ble for its anti-inflam­ma­tory prop­er­ties. This is an ini­tial step to later ascer­tain whether they could be used to treat inflam­ma­tory dis­eases like Irri­ta­ble Bowel Syn­drome.

The con­clu­sions of this study were detailed in the research arti­cle Squa­lene Stim­u­lates a Key Innate Immune Cell to Fos­ter Wound Heal­ing and Tis­sue Repair,” pub­lished in Evi­dence-Based Com­ple­men­tary and Alter­na­tive Med­i­cine.

Squa­lene is the main minor com­pound of vir­gin olive oil, its main hydro­car­bon and the major com­po­nent of its non­saponifi­able frac­tion. It reacts against chem­i­cal, phys­i­cal, bac­te­r­ial, and exoge­nous stress sig­nals, pro­tect­ing the skin’s sur­face. The com­pound helps pre­vent skin dam­age and has anti-inflam­ma­tory prop­er­ties which are pre­sumed to be capa­ble of pre­vent­ing can­cer, skin dam­age, and ath­er­o­scle­rotic lesions.

Vir­gin olive oils have high con­cen­tra­tions of squa­lene.


The study explored the role of squalenes exert on the proin­flam­ma­tory responses of cer­tain macrophages and con­cluded these are a nat­ural prod­uct that might be ben­e­fi­cial at the last stage of wound clo­sures because of their immunomod­u­la­tion of macrophages. Macrophages are the main innate cells involved in repair­ing tis­sues and bring­ing inflam­ma­tion to an end.

Two kinds of macrophages are involved in wound cica­triza­tion: M1 and M2. M2 macrophages have anti-inflam­ma­tory prop­er­ties and are key for the defin­i­tive heal­ing of wounds. The inter­ac­tion of M1 and M2 macrophages takes the heal­ing process from infec­tion to recov­ery; with­out squalenes, cica­triza­tion will be defi­cient and tis­sue dam­age may occur.

Accord­ing to the study, squalenes appear to act as a medi­a­tor in tis­sue remod­el­ing and repair by pro­mot­ing a switch from M1 into M2 macrophages, thereby recruit­ing immune cells and pro­duc­ing anti-inflam­ma­tory sig­nals.

The study was led by José Juan Gaforio, pro­fes­sor of Immunol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Jaén. Researchers from the University’s Cen­ter for Advanced Stud­ies in Olive Groves and Olive Oils, and the Depart­ment of Pre­ven­tive Med­i­cine and Pub­lic Health of the Uni­ver­sity of Navarra also par­tic­i­pated in the study.

A find­ing of the study was that squalene’s con­cen­tra­tion lev­els may have an influ­ence on how this com­pound behaves dur­ing the heal­ing process. The report rec­om­mends to fur­ther study the behav­ior of squalenes in dif­fer­ent con­cen­tra­tions to con­firm if ele­vated squa­lene con­cen­tra­tions might be adverse, rather than ben­e­fi­cial.

Recently, squalenes have been used in sev­eral appli­ca­tions, includ­ing chemo­pre­ven­tive in sev­eral tumors. Years ago, the Uni­ver­sity of Jaén also con­ducted another study that sug­gested squalenes might help pre­vent breast can­cer because they helped reduce oxida­tive dam­age upon epithe­lial cells.

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