It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
The helmet-shaped creature has developed a unique defense to compensate for its vulnerability to infection in shallow waters. When faced with toxins produced by bacteria, amebocyte cells in the blood -- colored blue by their copper-based molecules -- identify and congeal around the invading matter, trapping the threat inside a gel-like seal that prevents it from spreading.
An extract has been used in the industry-standard limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL) contamination test since the 1970s -- replacing a rabbit-based system. Forty-five minutes of exposure to the crab's blood is enough to reveal endotoxins from gram-negative bacteria which otherwise avoid detection, and is sensitive enough to isolate a threat the equivalent size of a grain of sand in a swimming pool. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that intravenous drugs and any medical equipment coming in contact with the body must first pass through the crab's blood, from needles to surgical implants including pacemakers. As a result, thousands more of us survive such procedures.
The blood is finding other uses on Earth too. Japanese scientists have devised a test for fungal infections with it, and further research is developing anti-viral and anti-cancer treatment through the same principle of isolating and trapping threats. As the applications and their value multiplies, efforts have increased to develop alternative tests, rather than rely on harvesting the crabs. One approach uses an electronic chip that provides an alert when in contact with contaminants. Another system using liquid crystals, developed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, could offer similar detection ability at lower cost.