Vampire healthcare helps our species at the expense of another

harvesting crab blood

It fuels the journeys of shorebirds along the Eastern Seaboard and feeds some loggerhead sea turtles and sharks. The horseshoe crab is intricately woven into the web of life. Yet this harmless and primitive sea creature not only plays a key role in nature, it occupies a crucial place in the human world as well.

Over three decades ago, medicine claimed this ancient animal as a new life-saving tool. In 1971 researchers discovered that when they exposed the horseshoe crab to E. coli bacteria, the crab’s blood clotted. The clotting indicated the presence of endotoxins, toxic substances released by E. coli and other gram-negative bacteria that could produce severe symptoms in exposed humans such as fever or hemorrhagic stroke.

The simplicity of its immune system is actually what makes the crab’s blood useful to our biomedical industry. Horseshoe crabs live under the constant threat of infection in a habitat that can easily contain billions of bacteria per milliliter. To fight off infection, the horseshoe crab has a compound in its blood — LAL, or Limulus Amebocyte Lysate — which immediately binds and clots around fungi, viruses, and bacterial endotoxins.
LAL’s endotoxin binding and clotting ability is what makes it so invaluable to our own pharmaceutical industry. Once the LAL test was recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an alternative to then current methods of testing for endotoxins, the pharmaceutical industry tapped in. Horseshoe crabs were abundant, their blood easy to harvest and the test took only one hour.

Today, LAL has become the worldwide standard screening test for bacterial contamination. Every drug certified by the FDA must be tested using LAL, as do surgical implants such as pacemakers and prosthetic devices.

Horseshoe crab blood has not only become a key weapon in our medical arsenal, it has also become big business. On the world market, a quart of horseshoe crab blood has a price tag of an estimated $15,000, leading to overall revenues from the LAL industry estimated at U.S. $50 million per year. But that pales in comparison to its value to the pharmaceutical industry.

Of course, to obtain LAL you need horseshoe crabs — and lots of them. According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, that $50 million dollar industry requires the blood of approximately 250,000 horseshoe crabs.

While the blood of a horseshoe crab can be extracted without killing the animal, there is some question of how harmful bleeding is to the animals. The LAL industry says the bleeding causes no long-term injury…

LAL manufacturers have measured mortality rates of less then 3%. Yet two recent studies estimate that between 10% and 15% of crabs do not survive the bleeding procedure, which accounts for the mortality of 20,000 to 37,500 horseshoe crabs per year. Another concern is that it takes the crab a few months to rebuild its blood cell count level back up after a bleeding. Horseshoe crabs could be bled up to three or four times a year, which would take a toll on the health of the animals. But LAL manufacturers claim they only bleed them once a year.

Humane researchers are concentrating on synthesizing LAL. If they can come up with a lower-cost version of the same substance that will resolve the whole question.

Pharmaceutical industrialists continues along their usual path for now. How to make the most profit for the least effort. To the average American, horseshoe crabs ain’t as cute as kittens. Humanity be damned.

Freight train only missed him by this much!

State police say a man escaped injury after being run over by a freight train while sleeping in the middle of railroad tracks in an upstate New York town.

Troopers say 38-year-old Aaron Collins of Stillwater was highly intoxicated when he went to sleep Wednesday night on tracks in the Rensselaer County town of Schaghticoke, 20 miles north of Albany.

…A Pan Am freight train more than a mile long approached around 10:30 p.m. The conductor spotted Collins on the tracks and stopped the train, but not before the first two engines passed over him.

Troopers say the engines were separated and the first engine was moved forward to free Collins, who was uninjured but still drunk.

He was taken to an Albany hospital for evaluation.

Actually, not too unusual in our neck of the prairie. But, then, it’s no surprise for part of the country that leads everyplace in DWI to also lead the pack in every other kind of drunken strupidity.

Yes, drunks sleeping on railroad tracks usually die.

Apartheid Israel closes TV station on Palestinian identity

Israel has ordered a six-month closure of Palestine 48, a new Palestinian television channel funded by the Palestinian Authority and catering to Palestinian citizens of Israel.

“I will not allow for Israel’s sovereignty to be harmed or for the Palestinian Authority to gain a foothold in Israeli territory,” said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who on Thursday signed an order claiming that the channel did not have the authorisation to operate in Israel.

So much for freedom of thought in Israel.

Mirroring the outrage expressed by a number of Palestinian lawmakers in Israel, Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation President Riad al-Hassan said the move against the channel – which is broadcast through the Palestinian company PalSat – was “illegal” and that it would be contested in the supreme court…

Creators say the channel has been no stranger to controversy, even in the choice of its name. Palestine 48 – or P48 – refers to the some 700,000 people who fled or were forcibly evicted from their homes in the context of the 1948 war with Israel, and whose descendants in recent years have balanced their identities as Israeli citizens and Palestinian nationals.

Their stories have begun to shed light on long-suppressed national narratives. P48 director Firas Abdelrahman said he was especially proud of programmes that would have examined the ways families were, and continue to be, shaped by the protracted conflict.

“We have stories which we are just thirsting to tell, and Palestinians are also eager to discover and learn about themselves,” Abdelrahman said…

The director’s own family tree traces back to al-Shajara village. After years wandering the world, Abdelrahman ended up in Ramallah, where he envisioned the P48 channel as a way of strengthening Palestinians’ connections with their homeland. The Palestinian Authority funds the channel, though producers say it maintains political independence…

Israel is home to more than 1.5 million Palestinians, most of whom speak Hebrew and have citizenship, but who also say they are treated as second-class citizens and given inferior access to education, healthcare and job opportunities compared to their Jewish neighbours.

RTFA. Lots more information about all the processes involved.

The battle against apartheid, the fight against an imperial nation with allies that historically ranged from Boer South Africa to the United States, has more similarities than contextual differences with the American civil rights movement. Throw in a little taste of Jim Crow days in failed Confederate states and you’re getting close to culture as it is experienced by Israelis of Palestinian origins.