Most Chimpanzee Research No Longer Necessary

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A panel of experts commissioned by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has concluded that most of the research involving chimpanzees is not necessary. According to the most recent count, there are 937 chimpanzees being used for research in the United States, including 612 for projects funded by the U.S. government. They are most commonly used for hepatitis-related research.

On December 15, the NIH suspended new grants for research that uses chimps.
The NIH asked researchers to examine the many ways chimps are utilized in medical and social experiments to determine the value of this work. The panel decided that “while the chimpanzee has been a valuable animal model in past research, most current use of chimpanzees for biomedical research is unnecessary.”
However, the study stopped short of recommending that chimps never be used by scientists.
They said there is rationale for using the primates in research on: monoclonal antibody therapies; comparative genomics; and non-invasive studies of social and behavioral factors that affect the development, prevention, or treatment of disease.
Guidelines also were offered for justifying the use of chimps, these being:
·       That the knowledge gained must be necessary to advance the public’s health;
·       There must be no other research model by which the knowledge could be obtained, and the research cannot be ethically performed on human subjects; and
The animals used in the proposed research must be maintained either in ethologically appropriate physical and social environments (i.e., as would occur in their natural environment) or in natural habitats.
In April, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) introduced the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011, which would prohibit invasive research on chimpanzees.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity (Bruce M. Altevogt, Diana E. Pankevich, Marilee K. Shelton-Davenport, and Jeffrey P. Kahn, Committee on the Use of Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research, National Research Council) (pdf)
Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity (Committee on the Use of Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research)
U.S. Will Not Finance New Research on Chimps (by James Gorman, New York Times)
Chimps’ Days in Labs May Be Dwindling (by James Gorman, New York Times)


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