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Biotech Medicine

Horseshoe Crabs Are Bled Alive To Create an Unparalleled Biomedical Technology 159

Posted by Soulskill
from the apparently-we're-a-race-of-vampires-to-horseshoe-crabs dept.
Lasrick writes "Alexis Madrigal at the Atlantic: 'The marvelous thing about horseshoe crab blood, though, isn't the color. It's a chemical found only in the amoebocytes of its blood cells that can detect mere traces of bacterial presence and trap them in inescapable clots.' Madrigal continues, 'To take advantage of this biological idiosyncrasy, pharmaceutical companies burst the cells that contain the chemical, called coagulogen. Then, they can use the coagulogen to detect contamination in any solution that might come into contact with blood. If there are dangerous bacterial endotoxins in the liquid—even at a concentration of one part per trillion—the horseshoe crab blood extract will go to work, turning the solution into what scientist Fred Bang, who co-discovered the substance, called a "gel." ... I don't know about you, but the idea that every single person in America who has ever had an injection has been protected because we harvest the blood of a forgettable sea creature with a hidden chemical superpower makes me feel a little bit crazy. This scenario is not even sci-fi, it's postmodern technology.'"
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Horseshoe Crabs Are Bled Alive To Create an Unparalleled Biomedical Technology

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  • Re:Bled Alive? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @03:25PM (#46349261)

    That was my first thought actually. Are they kept alive and 'donate' a little at a time, or are they bled dry and then just tossed on the barbie? The latter seems a bit erm, wasteful and shortsighted to say the least.

    Also, as any biologist (or intelligent human) is aware, there is NO SUCH THING as a 'forgettable' creature. While the concept is interesting (if a bit discomforting), the summary reads like the ravings of sociopath.

  • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @03:26PM (#46349273)

    It's one of the big arguments for environmentalism and bio diversity. When push comes to shove you sometimes hear "so what if a few species go extinct? They weren't doing all that well before $BUSINESSACTIVITY, why should we try saving them? Why do I care about this species?". And the answer is that the creature represents a massive chain of thousands to millions of generations of genetic experimentation in real-world real-time environments. We're just starting to open Pandora's box of genetics and culling the biodiversity of the planet could be throwing away truly helpful and useful tools we could use in the future.

    Plus genocide is just sort of a dick move.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @04:21PM (#46349939)

    Horseshoe crabs are now grossly over fished; some for medical and some for eel bait. The rarer they get, the higher the price and the more fishermen want them, thus resulting is a crash.

    The crash destroyed the food supply of a rare shorebird called the Red Knot that depends on horseshoe crab eggs in the Spring during their migration. So they arrive exhausted and hungry in the DelMar area, but there is now no food. So the population of Red Knots has crashed.

  • by Morpeth (577066) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @05:01PM (#46350411)

    Seriously? Such an enlightened attitude.

    Actually one of the strongest memories I have as a young child was coming across a horseshoe crab at a beach, it was in shallow water -- and it both scared the sh*t out of me, and had me intensely fascinated for a good long while. When an adult picked it up so I could see its underside and all those moving legs, I was absolutely, positively, enthralled. Nothing forgettable about it...

  • Re:Bled Alive? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phaedrus5001 (1992314) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @07:47PM (#46352341)
    I actually work for a company that does this. The crab will only bleed a certain amount of blood (usually ~30%), then stop. We also don't bleed them if they're wounded or lethargic. I will agree, though, that I find the claim of a 'forgettable' creature dubious. Of course, this practice is the alternative of using rabbits to to check for bacterial endotoxins, so take your pick.

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