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By Jennifer Gish
Albany Times Union
Chicago Tribune 9/21/05
ALBANY, N.Y. - Dr. Jerome Chao wasn't entirely convinced about the restorative properties of emu oil until he gave some to a dog-bite victim whose facial scarring looked like it would eventually require corrective surgery.
But when the patient returned three months later and the long scar was barely noticeable, the Albany plastic surgeon began wondering if there wasn't something to this product extracted from a big, flightless, unbelievably utilitarian bird.
Pretty much every part of the emu can be used for some commercial purpose, such as low-fat, high-protein meat or attractive leather, industry experts say.
They say Aborigines first used emu oil for healing, but its anti-inflammatory abilities were realized with 1993 studies by Australian researchers. More research and emu oil products followed.
The bird's oil, derived from a deposit of fat on its back, is already used in a popular pain-reducing salve, Super Blue Stuff OTC.
Now, Chao is hoping Albany Medical College, where he's a clinical assistant professor of surgery, will bless his study on whether the oil may reduce scarring after breast surgeries.
Chao said as soon as he gets approval from a review board at the college, he will ask patient volunteers to apply emu oil to their scars. He expects to have a report within 18 months to two years, with some preliminary results available in six months.
But he wants to prove its worth for certain, which is why he'll do an official study with the college's backing.
Chao's interest in the oil started when a friend in the medical industry told him about it. The friend also hooded him up with a supplier.
So far, the oil has proven more effective than other scar-reducing lotions and creams, Chao said. But his more formal patient study should say more.
The anti-inflammatory properties of the fatty-acid-rich oil seem to be key to reducing the appearance of scars if used within two to three weeks after surgery, he said.
"For younger kids to older retirees, they ask me for anything I can do to reduce the appearance of scars," Chao said.
So far, he said, it appears the oil works best on new scars...
...Chao said if his study proves the oil's worth, he can see it being used on all kinds of patients, from burn victims to face-lift recipients.
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