See Why people need blue blood

When it comes to blue blood, the first thing to remember is the blood of the horseshoe crab horseshoe crab. This bluish liquid has been widely used in medicine since the 1970s, as it helps fight various diseases and is an important element in testing the safety of vaccines and new drugs. A liter of horseshoe crab blood costs $ 15,000, making it one of the most expensive resources in the world. However, even despite the exorbitant cost, hunting for horseshoes has put this amazing species on the verge of extinction. The blue color of blood is due to the presence of copper in it, but this is not the most interesting feature of it.

The oldest animals on Earth
Horseshoe crabs – the oldest species on our planet, for which they received the title of “living fossil”: in one form or another, these horseshoe crabs, which live off the Eastern coasts of North America and Asia, have existed for at least 450 million years. Horseshoe crabs are not crustaceans, but belong to the order arthropods and are more related to Scorpions than to crabs. But how did the blood of these animals become such a valuable resource?

If a horseshoe crab is in danger, its blood turns to jelly. It is this property that helps to save lives. Moreover, everything is much more serious than it might seem – the entire modern system of checking medical drugs is tied to the blood of horseshoes. The lives of thousands of people are literally in their hands.

Pathologist Frederick burns wanted to understand how the animal’s immune system works. To study the properties of horseshoe blood, he conducted a series of experiments, such as introducing bacteria from seawater into the blood of horseshoe birds to see how the animal would react. It turned out that after water infected with bacteria got into the blood of the horseshoe crab, the blood turned into a jelly mass. The same thing happened after the scientist introduced water with bacteria into the blood of the horseshoe worm, which was boiled for 5-10 minutes before that. As a result, the pathologist concluded that this blood thickening is a natural mechanism that is designed to protect the rest of the horseshoe crab’s body from a foreign pathogen.

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Frederick bairns found that a special clotting agent, which is used to prepare a mixture called Limulus amebocyte lysate or LAL, is responsible for the high efficiency of the horseshoe crab’s immune system. Before the advent of LAL, scientists had no easy way to know whether a vaccine or medical instrument was infected with bacteria, such as E. coli or Salmonella. Every year, the medical industry catches about 600,000 horseshoe crabs.

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How to extract the blood of horseshoes
Being a very ancient creatures, the horseshoe crabs are capable without harm for themselves to “give” a certain amount of blood. In the lab, trained employees stick a hollow, cylindrical rod under the arthropod’s carapace, which drains blood as long as the marine animal allows it. It looks like this:

This is how the blood collection of horseshoes takes place

In General, horseshoe crabs drain 30% of their blood, but up to 30% of crabs do not survive to the end of this process. Researchers return the surviving animals to the water, but no one really knows if they are recovering. In 2016, the international Union for conservation of nature named the horseshoe crab a vulnerable species – that is, one step below the endangered species. If the situation does not change, their population in the US will continue to decline by as much as 30% over the next 40 years.

The latest data obtained, according to Business Insider, suggests that many horseshoe crabs do not survive. After blood sampling, 10% to 25% of the animals will die within the first two days. Because of the procedure, the crabs become weak and disoriented in space for some time. It is noted that females may have problems with spawning. Meanwhile, thanks to the blue blood of horseshoes, millions of patients can safely take medication every day.

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