Group urges gov't to strictly limit chimp research

Dec 15, 2011 By LAURAN NEERGAARD , AP Medical Writer
A group of chimpanzee play with a football at the Serengeti-Park in Germany 2011. Most US research on chimpanzees is unnecessary and should be strictly limited in the future, an independent panel of medical experts said Thursday, stopping short of urging an outright ban.

Chimpanzees should hardly ever be used for medical research, a prestigious scientific group told the government Thursday - advice that means days in the laboratory may be numbered for humans' closest relatives.

The Institute of Medicine stopped short of recommending the outright ban that animal rights activists had pushed. Instead, it urged strict limits that would make invasive experiments with chimps essentially a last resort, saying today's more advanced research tools mean the primates' use only rarely will be necessary enough to outweigh the moral costs.

Chimp research already was dwindling fast as scientists turned to less costly and ethically charged alternatives. The government agency in charge of it - the National Institutes of Health - called the new recommendations "scientifically well-founded" and signaled that it would make some changes.

"While operational details will need to be worked out, NIH intends to adopt the panel's general conclusions," said Dr. Francis Collins, the NIH's director.

These apes' to people has long caused a quandary. It's what has made them so valuable to scientists for nearly a century. They were vital in creating a vaccine for , for example, and even were shot into space to make sure the trip wouldn't kill the astronauts next in line.

But that close relationship also has had animal rights groups arguing that using chimps for is unethical, even cruel.

"We understand and feel compelled by the moral cost of using in research," said Jeffrey Kahn of Johns Hopkins University, who chaired the Institute of Medicine panel. "We have established criteria that will set the bar quite high for justification of the use of chimpanzees."

For biomedical research - testing or giving the animal a disease - that means using chimps only if studies cannot be done on other animals or people themselves, and if foregoing the chimp studies would hinder progress against life-threatening or other debilitating diseases.

The panel advised the government to limit use of chimps in behavioral research as well, saying such studies must provide insights into the brain and behavior that otherwise are unattainable - and use techniques that minimize any pain or distress.

The U.S. is one of only two countries known to still conduct medical research with chimpanzees; the other is Gabon, in Africa. The European Union essentially banned such research last year.

Here, too, the practice is dwindling fast. The Institute of Medicine's investigation found over the past 10 years, the NIH has paid for just 110 projects of any type that involved chimps. There are not quite 1,000 chimps available for medical research in the country. While it's impossible to say how many have been used in privately funded pharmaceutical research, the industry is shifting to higher-tech and less costly research methods. One drug company, GlaxoSmithKline, adopted an official policy ending its use of great apes, including chimpanzees, in research.

Thursday's report was triggered by an uproar over the fate of 186 semi-retired research that the NIH, to save money, last year planned to move from a New Mexico facility to an active research lab in Texas.

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Chimps' future prompts debate over NM primate lab

Sep 22, 2010

(AP) -- A decision to move 186 chimpanzees from a southern New Mexico facility to Texas is pitting government officials and scientists against a coalition of elected officials and animal rights advocates, ...

Survey: People know much about chimps

Dec 11, 2007

A Humane Society of the United States survey determined that people know more than they thought about chimpanzees, including the fact they are endangered.

Study: Chimps don't care about friends

Oct 26, 2005

University of California-Los Angeles scientists say helping others is apparently a uniquely human habit -- or, at least, not a habit shared by chimpanzees.

US lawmakers seek to ban chimp experiments

Apr 14, 2011

US lawmakers proposed bills Wednesday banning medical research on chimpanzees in the United States, the last major industrialized country to still use to the apes for experiments.

Chimpanzees use sex tools

May 05, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Many animals are known to use tools, but chimpanzees (our closest living relatives) show the most varied and complex use of tools, and the males in one group of chimps have even been observed ...

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

12 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...