- Title: Blue crayfish's speedy shell building inspire scientists
- Date: 8th December 2016
- Summary: ARAVA DESERT, ISRAEL (RECENT) (REUTERS) SIGN READING 'AMORPHICAL' IN ENGLISH ON FACTORY BUILDING WORKERS IN FACTORY LOOKING AT PRODUCTION LINE OF THE COMPANY'S FIRST COMMERCIAL PRODUCT, 'DENSITY'-AMORPHOUS CALCIUM SUPPLEMENT VARIOUS OF PILLS BEING PUT IN JARS ON PRODUCTION LINE JARS/WORKERS MORE OF JARS
- Embargoed: 23rd December 2016 12:03
- Keywords: crayfish Amorphical calcium Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Centre FDA
- Location: ARAVA DESERT, ISRAEL / NES ZIONA, ISRAEL / ANIMATION / UNKNOWN LOCATION
- City: ARAVA DESERT, ISRAEL / NES ZIONA, ISRAEL / ANIMATION / UNKNOWN LOCATION
- Country: Israel
- Reuters ID: LVA0055C0XKYJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Deep in the heart of an Israeli desert, blue crayfish are helping scientists in the search for treatments of an array of human diseases.
Yossi Ben, CEO of Israeli biotech company Amorphical, has been growing blue crayfish for more than a decade in freshwater pools in the Arava desert.
Twelve years ago Ben noticed that his band of crustaceans were able to build a new shell at an amazing speed.
Other shellfish which live in calcium-rich seawater take up to a month to shed their shell and grow a new one. Blue crayfish, surprisingly, can do this in only three days, even though they live in freshwater which contains less calcium.
Ben was intrigued. When studying crayfish he found they possessed a hard, stone-like, structure in their stomach called a gastrolith.
When scientists he approached put this gastrolith under the microscope they found a form of calcium known as stable amorphous calcium carbonate, which had previously eluded researchers.
Amorphous calcium carbonate, Ben said, is more than 100 times more soluble than more common crystalline forms of calcium available on the market - and has double the absorption rate.
"It's exactly what we've been missing to date. Because all the calcium that exists worldwide is crystalline, and the calcium (we've discovered) is amorphous," Ben said.
In 'Amorphical' labs, this unique form of calcium is produced synthetically through a patent-protected process that mimics the natural mechanisms of the blue crayfish.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body, necessary for vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion. Deficiency can cause disease.
"We basically solved the problem of calcium bio availability. It's exactly like fertilizer for plants. If we take it away, their entire mechanisms will be damaged. Once we supply them with fertilizer, all the mechanism works well - fruits, leaves, everything. It's the same with humans," Ben said.
A clinical trial conducted and published by the company demonstrated that the absorption of amorphous calcium in post-menopausal women was twice that observed for crystalline calcium.
The company says that another clinical study showed positive results in patients of hypocalcemia - those with low calcium levels - associated with hypoparathyroidism.
The professor who conducted the postmenopausal study for the company, Nachum Vaisman, former head of Clinical Nutrition Unit in the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Centre, called the findings a potential "revolution".
"This is really a promise because you can take only one pill and get part of the calcium that you need. So I think this is a revolution. This is something that can help a lot of people all around the world, he told Reuters.
The company said its pre-clinical trials on animals showed high levels of bone loss prevention, which is essential in the treatment of osteoporosis, in comparison to prevention by other calcium supplements.
"The question that we still have to show, and we've shown it at least on animals, is that this calcium once it comes into the body, into the blood, is really put in the bone, in the right places," Vaisman said.
Ben said the company plans to start clinical trials in Israeli cancer hospices in the first quarter of 2017, based on pre-clinical results in animals showing changes in the metabolic behaviour of cancer cells that were introduced with amorphous calcium carbonate.
The company's first commercial product, "Density", an amorphous calcium supplement, has been approved for use in Israel and China as a food supplement. The cost is about $50 USD for a jar of 200mg pills.
The company has recently submitted a request for FDA approval, aiming to market its product as a drug in the United States and the rest of the world by the first quarter of 2019, Ben said.
The company, valued at $90 million USD, said it has raised $20 million USD to date from private investors, funds and grants.
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