Lobster Unlimited, an LLC based in Orono, ME, is among the many lobster companies and research entities working to find a cure for COVID-19. The Bangor Daily News reported that Bob Bayer, the former head of the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute, said that the LLC is searching for a bio-secure lab willing to test lobster blood on the deadly coronavirus as a potential treatment option.
Shellfish blood has a long history of being used in disease treatment, and this potential revelation does not come as a surprise to the broader lobster research community. Here’s what you need to know about the development and what it might mean for you.
Lobster Blood to Cure Disease
Lobsters have a blood-like substance in their bodies called hemolymph. This substance contains hemocyanin, which is a protein that carries oxygen to the animal’s cells. Scientists have found that this hemocyanin has both anti-viral and immune-boosting properties. In fact, it is already being used in cancer vaccine and treatment development. Lobster Unlimited, the Orono, ME company, has even developed a topical skin product for the treatment of warts and shingles. Researchers also think hemocyanin can be an effective agent against diseases like Ebola, herpes, measles, and colds.
Whether hemocyanin can be an effective treatment for coronaviruses has yet to be seen. However, lobster blood has a record of treating other viral illnesses. For Maine researchers, this is enough to warrant extensive testing.
What Does this Mean for You?
While the potential link could see a higher demand for lobsters, this isn’t likely to happen. Hemocyanin is also found in the blood of other shellfish, including oysters, shrimp, horseshoe crabs, and abalone. Lobster blood has a practical advantage, however, because there is a significant supply passing through the seafood processing industry. Each year, around 2 million gallons of hemolymph are discarded as waste at lobster processing plants.
Because hemolymph is a lobster processing byproduct, potential curative discoveries won’t likely affect lobster prices. We haven’t seen any updates on this front since the initial publication, but if this Orono company finds a link between lobster blood and the novel coronavirus, lobster will be in the news more than ever before.