(This article was originally published on OceanLines on July 23, 2007.)
As if the sheer joy of eating them wasn’t enough reason to redouble efforts to save our lobster populations, scientists have discovered that a chemical in lobster (and crabs and shrimp) shells may be able to accelerate the healing of human wounds.
This contribution from the bottom-dwelling creatures of inner space will soon be tested in outer space, in the form of experiments to be flown on the next Space Shuttle launch, currently scheduled for an 11-day mission to the International Space Station beginning August 7.
The scientists involved in these experiments are looking at ways to treat injuries on long-duration space missions. Earlier research on astronauts has shown that humans in space suffer a diminished immune system response and consequent slow-healing of wounds and injuries.
Scientists from Harvey Mudd College (HMC) in California and the University of Louisville are collaborating with bioengineering and biomaterials company BioSTAR West. This effort is directed and led by Hawaii Chitopure Inc., a Honolulu based biomaterials company specializing in the U.S. manufacture of ultra-pure chitosan, a polymer developed from the shells of crustaceans, such as lobsters, crabs, and shrimp. The team has developed experiments using chitosan, which has recently gained approval in the U.S. for use in bandages and other hemostatic agents.
HMC Professor of Chemistry Shenda Baker says, “These experiments will study the effects of microgravity on wound repair and the ability of chitosan-based materials to accelerate the wound healing process, reduce infection and ultimately reduce wound scarring.”
For years, scientists have known that there were likely to be huge contributions to human medical knowledge from the study of the ocean’s massively diverse life forms. This contribution by one of the uglier denizens of the deep should spur us to accelerate our understanding of all life in inner space.
Copyright © 2008 by OceanLines