RIT professor receives grant to investigate horseshoe crab blood harvesting industry

Science

HENRIETTA, N.Y. (WROC) — Horseshoe crabs have a compound in their distinctive copper-based blue blood helps detect toxins in other compounds.

That detection compound is called “LAL” in short, and it works by coagulating around those toxins. Scientists have been harvesting the blood for decades, but given their value and other uses for the horseshoe crab, it still could be vulnerable.

That’s why RIT professor Kristoffer Whitney received a grant from the National Science Foundation to explore the harvesting industry.

Whitney goes so far as saying our current pharmaceutical standards are possible because of the horseshoe crab.

The current blood harvesting process provides enough of that compound in a day for use in millions of tests, but has a 15% mortality rate, according to those regulators.

While that industry is highly regulated, other fisheries that chop up the crabs for bait, have — needless to say — a 100% mortality rate.

Whitney seeks to uncover the inner workings of these both the blood harvesting and fishing industries make sure the crab, and the industries can be protected.

“I’m doing a series of site visits and interviews to investigate,” he said. All these players in this industry. Who catches the horseshoe crabs, from ocean to injection, who catches these crabs, what do they do with them in a lab, how do they create L-A-L, and what are they doing in terms of conservation?”

The grant will end in a study that will published with work from him and three other researchers.

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