Tag Archives: FDA

Horseshoe crabs: Saving lives, all in a day’s work

pixabay horseshoe crabIf you have ever taken medication, received a vaccine, or had a surgical implant, you should thank a horseshoe crab. These prehistoric-looking animals are actually really important to modern medicine. But why?

It’s all about their blue blood. Mammals have hemoglobin in their blood, which contains iron- hence the red color. But horseshoe crabs transport oxygen through their bodies via hemocyanin, which contains copper, making their blood blue.

Even more interesting is a compound in the crab’s blood called Limulus Amebocyte Lysate, or LAL. LAL binds to bacteria, viruses and fungi and acts to protect the animal’s system from infection. It’s worked pretty well- horseshoe crabs have been around since about 100 million years BEFORE the dinosaurs, and they’re still going strong!

This ability to bind endotoxins makes horseshoe crab blood incredibly useful- and valuable. LAL is the worldwide standard screening test for bacterial contamination, and it’s used to test drugs, vaccines and surgical implants. LAL can detect endotoxins as low as .1 parts per trillion!

The best part is that harvesting horseshoe crab blood doesn’t require the animals to be killed! The crabs are caught, blood is drawn, and they are put back into their environments, where their blood volume is replenished within about a week. Watch this video to see how it’s done, and read more about it here:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/crash-a-tale-of-two-species/the-benefits-of-blue-blood/595/

http://www.ksl.com/?sid=22797818

A new way to make babies… forget the birds and the bees!

iStock_000011577284SmallYou know about the birds and the bees… but this is a whole new conversation. New research gives a new meaning to the term “three-way”! The FDA is considering the approval of in-vitro fertilization techniques that could give a child not two- but three- parents.

For women with mitochondrial defects, this could allow them to have children while preventing disease. A woman with mitochondrial defects could have the nuclear DNA removed from one of her eggs, and put into a donor egg from a woman with normal mitochondrial DNA. Studies involving oocyte modification with animals and human embryos have shown that it’s possible, and as mitochondrial diseases occur in 1 in 5,000 births, this could be a big step forward.

There are other points of view, though- some argue that offspring would need to be carefully followed to determine potential health effects of this procedure, and others question whether or not it’s ethical.

It’s a lot to think about. What do you think? Would you support this, or argue against it? What information do you need to make a decision about it? Let me know what you think. Read more here and here.