Israel's Assaf Shaham is no ordinary farmer. For starters, he rarely goes outside, nor does he tend to livestock or rows of crops. What Shaham grows lives in a fish tank, and it won't be used to feed people, but to heal them.
Shaham is the founder of OkCoral — a $2.5 million laboratory that sits in the middle of Israel's Negev Desert. In the lab, Shaham tends to row after row of fish tanks, inside of which grows something he hopes will one day make him rich: coral. But this coral won't be used to make artificial reefs or aquarium decorations. Shaham hopes that it will one day be used in bone operations — everything from dental procedures to bone grafts.
Researchers in this field claim that coral is the perfect bone replacement because, unlike human or animal bone transplants, it won't be rejected by the human body. Scientists have been refining ways to make coral more compatible with human bone for years. Shaham's coral, which is grown in a lab, may be even more beneficial because it won't carry exposure to any germs or diseases. And he won't have to worry about harming the ecosystem to harvest it.
Shaham still needs to get clearance from European Union and U.S. authorities to sell his coral to be used for medical purposes, but he is hoping those permits will come through in the next year.
So how do you grow coral in a lab? Shaham told CNN's Marketplace Middle East that it is a constant learning experience for him. He spends much of his time adjusting the salinity and temperature of the tanks to ensure that the coral can thrive. In a perfect example of symbiosis, the fish that swim amongst Shaham's artificial reefs eat algae off of the coral and deposit waste that the coral then use for food. The movement of the fish help keep the coral strong and thriving.
Want to have a look? Check out the video below:
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