SEP 22, 2017 03:10 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
OCT 19, 2019
Earth & The Environment
OCT 19, 2019
17 Countries Face "Extremely High" Water Stress
Seventeen countries, which are home to 25% of the world’s population, are at risk of extremely high water stress. This information comes from the Wor...
OCT 19, 2019
Plants & Animals
OCT 19, 2019
Watch a Baby Kangaroo Take its First Hops
When Kangaroos are first born, the bones and muscles in their legs aren’t strong enough for them to stand on their own. This is why baby kangaroos re...
OCT 19, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 19, 2019
3D Printing Could Be the Answer for Habitats on Mars
Deep space missions, such as those to the Moon and Mars, are in our future. NASA, SpaceX, and other top-tier entities in the business of space exploration...
OCT 19, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 19, 2019
ESA's Upcoming Euclid Space Telescope Could Teach Us About Dark Energy
The European Space Agency is currently developing a new visible to near-infrared space telescope dubbed Euclid, which is expected to tell us more about the...
OCT 19, 2019
Plants & Animals
OCT 19, 2019
How a Venus Flytrap Works
Most people think of plants as being at the bottom of the food chain, but the Venus Flytrap defies this oversimplified way of thinking by devouring meat. W...
OCT 19, 2019
Plants & Animals
OCT 19, 2019
Why Do Camels Have Humps?
Camels are predominantly known for the humps that appear on their backs, and believe it or not, those humps are filled with body fat. Some camels sport jus...
Loading Comments...