Their haemoglobin can trans­port 40 times more oxy­gen than hu­man haemoglobin, say re­searchers

New Straits Times - - World -


FOR cen­turies, the only use hu­mans found for the lug­worm — dark pink, slimy and ined­i­ble — was on the end of a fish hook. But, the in­ver­te­brates’ un­ap­pre­ci­ated sta­tus is about to change.

French re­searchers said their blood had an ex­tra­or­di­nary abil­ity to load up with life-giv­ing oxy­gen.

Har­ness­ing it for hu­man needs, they said, could trans­form medicine, pro­vid­ing a blood sub­sti­tute that could save lives, speed re­cov­ery af­ter surgery and help trans­plant pa­tients.

“The haemoglobin of the lug­worm can trans­port 40 times more oxy­gen from the lungs to tis­sues than hu­man haemoglobin. It also has the ad­van­tage of be­ing com­pat­i­ble with all blood types,” said Gre­gory Ray­mond, a bi­ol­o­gist at Aquas­tream, a fish­farm­ing fa­cil­ity on the Brittany coast­line.

Ray­mond and his team, which spe­cialises in fish egg pro­duc­tion, joined forces with biotech firm He­ma­rina in 2015 to se­cure a re­li­able means of lug­worm pro­duc­tion.

The fa­cil­ity churns out more than 1.3 mil­lion of the crea­tures each year, each pro­vid­ing tiny amounts of the pre­cious haemoglobin.

“We started from zero. Since the worm had never been stud­ied, all pa­ram­e­ters needed in­vent­ing from scratch, from feed­ing to wa­ter tem­per­a­ture,” said project re­searcher Po­lice of­fi­cers pre­par­ing for the ex­e­cu­tion of Mo­hammed al-Moghrabi, 41, who was con­victed of rap­ing and mur­der­ing a 3-year-old girl, in Sanaa, Ye­men, yes­ter­day. Thou­sands of peo­ple gath­ered to wit­ness the pub­lic ex­e­cu­tion. Moghrabi was first given 100 lashes and then made to lie flat, his face on the ground, and killed by mul­ti­ple gun­shots by se­cu­rity forces to cheers from the crowd.

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