By Aaron Orlowski
Published on Sunday, March 19, 2017
Millions of pounds of lobster blood currently discarded at processing plants in Maine and Canada could soon serve another purpose as a skin cream to treat warts, shingles, age spots and other ailments, according to a University of Maine researcher who has filed a patent for lobster blood-based skin creams.
Bob Bayer, a professor at the University of Maine and director of the Lobster Institute, told SeafoodSource he grew interested in developing a lobster blood-based medicinal after learning about the anti-viral and anti-cancer properties of the blood of other marine species, such as abalone, clams and some crustaceans.
If the product, called LobsteRx, takes off, it would likely increase the market for lobsters, and give lobster fishermen a new source of revenue, Bayer said.
“We’re going to buy this material that’s going down the drain at the moment,” Bayer said. “It could really increase the price of lobster.”
Maine alone landed more than 120 million pounds (54,400 metric tons) of lobster in 2015, resulting in millions of pounds of blood, or hemolymph, being discarded.
The grayish, slightly blue blood would be collected prior to processing, though Bayer hasn’t settled on a method. Vacuums can be used to draw it out, or even a needle and a syringe.
“I can collect a gallon of blood by myself in about 40 minutes, from 90 pounds of lobster,” Bayer said. Compared to other marine species, “It’s easy. Try doing that for a clam or a crab.”
Even insect blood has similar anti-viral properties, but is nearly impossible to extract.
Conveniently, lobsters are processed in central facilities, with as many as 100,000 pounds (45,000 metric tons) processed in one place at one time. Withdrawing the blood doesn’t harm the quality of the meat, Bayer said.
The patent was originally issued in July 2015, but Bayer said he kept the product quiet until about six weeks ago when he went on the local television program Greenlight Maine – a show that’s similar to “Shark Tank,” in which inventors compete for investment dollars. Bayer didn’t win, but decided to take his product public afterwards. He has four more patents filed to cover different variations, and one more patent that’s been published but not yet issued.
In the lab, Bayer used lobster blood to kill the herpes simplex 1 virus, but hasn’t done other formal testing.
The skin cream, classified as a cosmeceutical, would go through only a limited Food and Drug Administration approval process.
“Basically, you just have to show that it’s safe,” Bayer said, adding, “We’ve only tested it on friends and family.”