Our modern medical standards wouldn’t be possible without the horseshoe crab. Find out why!
If you really want to strike it rich, don't worry about digging for gold or trying to strike oil. Head to the sea and find yourself some horseshoe crabs to drain and make a killing. It turns out their blood is key in the world's medical arsenal.
The horseshoe crab has a very simple immune system that was discovered in 1971. Its blood binds and clots when it comes in contact with fungi, viruses, and bacterial endotoxins. It contains a compound, Limulus Amebocyte Lysate, or LAL for short, that is an easy way for the Food and Drug Administration to test for any bad stuff in new drugs. Now, every drug and surgical implant certified by the FDA is tested using LAL.
On the world market, a single quart of the crab's blood runs around $15,000, making it an incredible business for those that live where they are abundant. According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, approximately 250,000 horseshoe crabs are needed to fuel the medical testing each year.
There is good news: The blood can be extracted from the little crabby guy without killing them, and there have been no signs of any long-term injury. It's a win-win…sort of.