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Nov 28

Horseshoe crabs in a rack bleed into bottles at the BioWhittaker lab in Chincoteague Island, Va., Aug. 1, 2000. Horseshoe crab blood is used to help develop medicine, but some people want the practice stopped. This blood … Horseshoe crabs are bled at Charles River Laboratories, Charleston, South Carolina in the US. Horseshoe crabs have a vital role in the development of a coronavirus vaccine. Here's why The horseshoe crab's fluorescent blue blood is its best line of defense against toxins. The medicinal value of horseshoe crab blood comes from its ability to clot in the presence of bacteria, rendering the bacteria harmless. A protein in the blood called Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL) is used by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to test their products for the presence of endotoxins, bacterial substances that can cause fevers and even be fatal to humans. Horseshoe crabs' blue blood is so valuable that a quart of it can be sold for $15,000. To understand their importance to biomedicine, it helps to look into their distant past. Even though bacteria are usually destroyed by modern sterilization techniques, some bacteria, called endotoxins, may survive the sterilization process. Horseshoe crabs are also used by the biomedical industry. This is because it contains a molecule that is crucial to the medical research community. The blue blood is the only source of a compound used to test for contaminants in every drug and vaccine, every artificial limb, and every dialysis and intravenous drip. Although Limulus and its three Asian relatives are called horseshoe crabs, they are not really crabs at all: they are more closely related to arachnids (spiders and their relatives) than to modern crabs. But that’s not why it’s valuable. Horseshoe crab blood is blue in colour, due to the presence of copper. Horseshoe crab blood and rFC are both used to screen injectable drugs for the presence of toxic contamination. The blood of the horseshoe crab provides a valuable medical product critical to maintaining the safety of many drugs and devices used in medical care. It’s valuable because it contains an “amebocyte” used in the field of biomedics to identify bacterial contamination in vaccines and all injectable drugs. Photograph: Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Such is the demand that processed lysate from the crab…

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