SEP 22, 2017 3:10 PM PDT

Blood From This Crab is Worth $60K per Gallon

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

The horseshoe crab is considered one of the relatively few living fossils on Earth, given that it's been around for 450 million years. But this prehistoric-looking, helmet-shaped invertebrate of the sea is a prized medical marvel - so much so that their blood is priced at $60,000 a gallon.

The horseshoe crab blood is so precious not because of its exotic blue color. Rather, the blood is prized for amebocytes - cells that move like amoebas to surround any invading pathogens. More than just isolating the pathogen, the amebocytes produce a gel-like seal that squelches the pathogen. This natural defense mechanism has allowed the horseshoe crab to survive in shallow, muddy waters, unchanged for hundreds of millions of years.

And lucky for us, the same mechanism also works to protect human blood against harmful pathogens. According to a report, the crab's blood can unmask endotoxins from gram-negative bacteria that would otherwise go undetected. Furthermore, the amebocyte's sensitivity is unparalleled, so much so that the FDA requires intravenous drugs, needles, and surgical equipment to first pass through the crab's blood.

The blue liquid is harvested during every spring mating season, when over 600,000 crabs are captured for blood donation. About 30 percent of the animal's blood is collected. The animal is then released. However, between 10-30 percent of the animals die in the process, exacerbating the already declining numbers.

Researchers are working to create a synthetic substitute that's as effective as the horseshoe crab blood. But until that version is available, we still have to rely on these ancient creatures to save countless lives.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
NOV 12, 2020
Health & Medicine
Measles Cases and Deaths Surge Worldwide
NOV 12, 2020
Measles Cases and Deaths Surge Worldwide
Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a stat ...
NOV 18, 2020
Plants & Animals
This Bat Species Uses Masks for Mating
NOV 18, 2020
This Bat Species Uses Masks for Mating
From pandemic precautions to televised talent shows, masks are having a moment. Even this bizarre bat species has a buil ...
DEC 24, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Novel Two-phased Particles are the Ultimate Authenticity Tag
DEC 24, 2020
Novel Two-phased Particles are the Ultimate Authenticity Tag
Counterfeit goods producers are flooding the global market with low-quality, sometimes dangerous merchandise and ripping ...
JAN 13, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Astronomers Identify Another Crucial Aspect for Planets to Support Life
JAN 13, 2021
Astronomers Identify Another Crucial Aspect for Planets to Support Life
For some time now, we have known of the 'Goldilocks zone'- a distance from the sun that leads to planets neither ...
FEB 09, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Scientists Spotlight Dangers of Ocean Noise Pollution
FEB 09, 2021
Scientists Spotlight Dangers of Ocean Noise Pollution
Many ocean species use sound to communicate and survive. Sound is a crucial communication method since vision is limited ...
MAY 21, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Alien Radioactive Element Discovered on Earth for First Time
MAY 21, 2021
Alien Radioactive Element Discovered on Earth for First Time
  Researchers from Australian National University have discovered the first ever extraterrestrial radioactive isoto ...
Loading Comments...