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Scientific evidence clearly shows that chimpanzee research is unnecessary.
November 17, 2012, 4:18 am
Filed under: Chimpanzee Welfare

by L.Docherty

It’s shocking that in 2012 we are still discussing whether chimpanzees should still be used in medical research. Especially when scientific evidence clearly shows that using chimpanzees in research is unnecessary. The US remains the only developed country that continues to use our closest living relative in medical research.

(see http://www.digitaljournal.com/image/126133)

History of chimpanzees used in research 

  • 1923 Psychobiologist Robert Yerkes purchases two young chimpanzees, Chim and Panzee, considered as the first chimps used in research.
  • 1930 the first research facility using chimpanzees is founded : Yerkes Primate Research Center
  • 1960 the National Institutes of Health establishes 8 NIH-funded primate research facilities.
  • 1966 The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is enacted to provide some protection for animals in research.
  • 1975 The US & Canada restrict and then prohibit import of chimpanzees caught in the wild under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
  • 1976  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designates chimpanzees in captivity as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, allowing for their continued use in research.
  • The first North American chimpanzees sanctuary opens
  • 1986 NIH establishes the Chimpanzee Breeding and Research Program designed to produce greater numbers of chimpanzees to be used in HIV/AIDS research.
  • 1995 A moratorium on the breeding of federally-owned chimpanzees is put in place by NIH due to a “surplus” of chimpanzees, after the realization that the chimpanzee is a poor model for researching HIV. It becomes permanent in 2007.
  • n 1996,New York University made the decision to close down the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine & Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP), which at the time housed nearly 200 chimpanzees and an even larger number of monkeys.
  • 1997, the LEMSIP chimpanzees were sent to Coulston, but not before Jim Mahoney, D.V.M., Ph.D, LEMSIP’s veterinarian and acting director, managed to place 109 chimpanzees and 100 monkeys in sanctuaries around North America, including the Fauna Foundation, Wildlife Waystation and the Primate Rescue Center.
  • 2000 The U.S. passes the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection (CHIMP) Act.
  • 2002, most of the LEMSIP chimpanzees sent to Coulston were rescued by the Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care, now known as Save the Chimps, when it took over Coulston. However, an unknown number remain incarcerated in lab cages, transferred to the Alamogordo Primate Facility, which is owned by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and operated under contract by Charles River Labs.
  • 2005 Dr. Jane Goodall, along with national and international animal protection organizations, signs a resolution calling for an end to the use of nonhuman primates in biomedical research and testing.
  • The U.S. passes the “Chimp Haven is Home Act,” prohibiting all “retired” chimpanzees in federal sanctuary from ever being returned to research, securing the original intent of the 2000 CHIMP Act
  • 2010 NIH announces plans to transfer more than 200 government-owned chimpanzees to the Southwest National Primate Research Center in Texas, where they will be readily available for invasive research. 14 of them have been transferred so far.
  • The European Union bans medical research conducted on chimpanzees, but the new directive will not go into effect until January 2013.
  • 2011 In 2008, the Great Ape Protection Act (GAPA) was introduced into the US Congress. The bill, reintroduced in 2009, in 2010 and 2011, is now renamed the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act (H.R.1513/S.810).
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service is considering changing the status of captive chimpanzees from “threatened” to “endangered” that will protect them from being used in research.

Chimpanzee numbers used in research today

(http://theadvocate.com/home/3954089-125/110-chimps-to-leave-center)

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC) report published in Dec 15, 2011 there is a total of 937 chimpanzees available in the US for research.  617 of those are supported by the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) and the National Institute of Health (NIH), at a total cost of $12.38M per year.

Federally supported research groups still using chimpanzees (IOM and NRC report)

Alamogordo Primate Facility (176 chimps)
Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research (176 chimps)
New Iberia Research Center (347 chimps)
Southwest National Primate Research Center (153 chimps)
Yerkes National Primate Research Center (87 chimps)

The numbers of chimpanzees used by the private sectors

Not known. The numbers of chimpanzees used in research in the private sector is very difficult to determine because of the proprietary nature of the information. However according to the IOM and NRC report, based on limited publications and public non-proprietary information, it is clear that the private sector is using the chimpanzee model, especially
in areas of drug safety, efficacy, and pharmacokinetics.

Conclusions of the IOM and NRC report assessing the necessity of chimpanzees in research.

The task given to the committees by the NIH, asked two questions about the need for chimpanzees in research:

(1) Is biomedical research with chimpanzees “necessary for research discoveries and to determine the safety and efficacy of new prevention or treatment strategies?” and

(2) Is behavioral research using chimpanzees “necessary for progress inunderstanding social, neurological, and behavioral factors that influence the development, prevention, or treatment of disease?”

In responding to these questions, the committee concluded that the potential reasons for undertaking biomedical and behavioral research as well as the protocols used in each area are different enough to require different sets of criteria.
However, the committee developed both sets of criteria guided by the following three principles:
1. The knowledge gained must be necessary to advance the public’s health;
2. 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
3. The animals used in the proposed research must be maintained either in ethologically appropriate physical and social environments or in natural habitats.

The IOM and NRC reviewed the following areas to determine if was necessary to use chimpanzees.

Monoclonal Antibodies – Not necesary
Development of Chimpanzee Monoclonal Antibodies – Not necessary
Safety Testing of Monoclonal Antibody Therapies – Not necessary
Respiratory Syncytial Virus – Not necessary
HCV Antiviral Drugs – Not necessary
Therapeutic HCV Vaccine – Not necessary
Prophylactic HCV Vaccine – the committe are undecided, although in my opinion chimpanzees are not a good model given the differences in the pathogenesis of HCV infection in chimpanzees and humans with respect to immune responses, including weaker neutralizing antibody responses and higher rates of spontaneous viral clearance in chimpanzees.

Comparative Genomics – Each such study would have to be assessed to determine whether it meets the proposed criteria.

Altrusim – The information provided suggests that chimpanzee use in these studies could meet all criteria if more complete descriptions of the handling and housing were provided

Cognition – In view of the scientific benefits compared to the temporary negative impacts on the animal subjects (separation and anesthesia), this study could potentially meet all criteria for approval if sufficient additional assurance were provided that the animals were maintained in speciesappropriate housing and groupings and that the number and duration of procedures imposed on individual animals was minimized in a manner consistent with criteria described earlier in the IOM report.

They concluded that in most cases IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO USE CHIMPANZEES FOR RESEARCH!

Summary of why chimpanzee research should end right now!

1. Chimpanzee research has made minimum contribution to the advancement of biomedical knowledge. As early as in 2007 and 2008 Andrew Knight through his in depth literature reviews  concluded that biomedical research on chimpanzees provided minimal contribution toward the advancement of biomedical knowledge generally, but on the other hand in vitro studies, human clinical and epidemiological studies, molecular assays and methods, and genomic studies contributed most to their development.(http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10888700701555501?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3dpubmed& and http://www.peh-med.com/content/3/1/16)

2. Chimpanzees are not a relevant model for Aids , HCV research or cancer. J.Bailey in his Dec 201o and 2011 articles concluded that claims of past necessity of chimpanzee use were exaggerated, and that claims of current and future indispensability were unjustifiable. In addition, he also states that the genetic similarity that exists between humans and chimpanzees does not result in sufficient physiological similarity for the chimpanzee to constitute a good model for research, and furthermore, that chimpanzee data do not translate well to progress in clinical practice for humans. According to Bailey leading examples include the minimal citations of chimpanzee research that is relevant to human medicine, the highly different pathology of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C virus infection in the two species, the lack of correlation in the efficacy of vaccines and treatments between chimpanzees and humans, and the fact that chimpanzees are not useful for research on human cancer. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21275471 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22243397.

3.  The suffering endured by chimpanzees is just too high to justify using chimpanzees for research. The suffering endured by laboratory chimpanzees through years of confinment and endless knockdowns have been scientifically documented and is obvious for those who care for ex-lab chimps in sanctuaries throughout the states.

Do we know the costs to the chimpanzees’ themselves?

(http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/20/us/rescue-chimp-migration/index.html)

Yes we do. The costs are too high to justify any type of research, be it behavioural or invasive, where animals are housed  in non-naturalistic living conditions or lacking optimal social conditions or involve forced separation from their group members and especially those studies that involve anaesthesia.

It is well known that chimpanzees recently retired from U. S. laboratories exhibit gross stereotypies (repetitive, behaviors) indicating psychological distress that is both profound and chronic. Other behavioral abnormalities include self-mutilation, inappropriate aggression, fear withdrawal, and mood and anxiety disorders including post-traumatic stress disorders. (see full text article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3116818/)

4. Aging populations of chimpanzees  are not good subjects for experimental research?

The October 2012 journal Alternatives to Laboratory Animals (ATLA), Volume 40, Issue 5 (in press) compiles data from 110 autopsies performed in the last 10 years on chimpanzees who died in or were from laboratories. It shows a full 64% of those chimpanzees suffered significant chronic illnesses and 69% had multi-organ diseases that should have rendered them too sick for research use. Yet, despite this knowledge on the part of the laboratories, many of these chimpanzees were held in labs for research despite their poor health and unsuitability for use.

5. Ending chimpanzee experimentation will speed up medical progress rather than hinder them.

I believe, that ending the use of chimpanzees in medical research will speed up progress because scientists will be forced to explore new improved methodologies instead of relying on what is familiar but not necessarily better. It will also weed out the scientists who are NOT willing to change their narrow minded ways.

Retirement of the research chimpanzees

A very lucky group of ex Immuno-Baxter lab chimps are finally retired at Michael Aufhauser’s sanctuary in Austria. (See http://www.gut-aiderbichl.com/page.international.php)

Many of these research chimpanzees have been subjected to painful invasive procedures most days throughout their  lives, which can be as long as 50+ years.  They live in inappropriate confined conditions, day in day out. Chimpanzees typically live in small groups or pairs in cramped concrete pens or indoor/outdoor runs, or alone in a 5′ x 5′ x 7′ cage allowable by US federal law. Even once released into a sanctuary, the years of confinement and trauma have taken their toll and the majority of chimpanzees suffer from some degree of traumatic stress disorder, depression or other psychological and behavioural problems. Their rehabilitation requires endless amounts of patience and loving care and lots of time to heal the mental scars.  Some scars will never heal but at least the chimpanzees will have the opportunity to live in naturalistic conditions and form friendships in an environment safe from harm.

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