T Z E M A C H, Israel, Aug. 21 -- Israeli scientists haveseized on the secrets of the tiny orange Clown fish to produce alotion they say fends off the nemesis of swimmers everywhere —the sting of the jellyfish.
A cream developed by marine biologist Amit Lotan and his wife Tamar, amolecular scientist, mimics the defensive secretionsof the Clown, a fish that lives without being stung in thewavering tentacles of the sea anemone, a type of jellyfish.
Utilizing expertise garnered from more than a decade spentanalyzing the sea creatures, 40-year-old Lotan has developedactive compounds similar to those produced by the Clown fish.
“This is really a breakthrough. Most creams give reliefafter someone is stung, but this is the first that actuallyprevents the sting in the first place,” Lotan said in hislaboratory on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
After coating his hand in the lotion, he placed it in a tankof the white parasol-shaped jellyfish that are most prevalent inthe Mediterranean Sea. The creatures remained indifferent to hisprods and pulls.
A Complicated Sting
The compounds inhibit the painful and even fatal stingingmechanism that can inflict lacerating welts and burning blotcheson its victims.
Jellyfish have in many respects remained remarkably simpleorganisms in more than 700 million years of evolution. They lackmuscles, bones and the ability to hear and see but their complexstings, one of the fastest mechanisms in nature, have defiedscientists.
Two years ago, Lotan founded the Nidaria company with an oldschool friend Chen Porat to produce and market the patentedinvention.
About half a million dollars, most of it from the Israeligovernment, has been spent developing the cream that hit theU.S. and Israeli markets earlier this year under the Skin Guardbrand and their own “SafeSea” name.
“The response has been very encouraging. We have beencontacted by people from fishermen in Alaska to swimmers inFlorida,” Porat said.