First Guidelines For Lab Chimps Drawn Up | Fox News
By Wynne Parry
For the first time, criteria have been issued on research
using our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, chimpanzees
govern the use of our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, in federally
funded U.S. research, and because of them, some biomedical studies are
likely to come to an end.
In fact, nearly all research using
chimpanzees to develop drugs or answer other questions with medical
applications for humans should end, according to a committee charged with
establishing the first set of criteria for research on chimpanzees. The
committee released its report Thursday (Dec. 15).
genetic or behavioral questions -- such as looking for insight into human
behavior by studying how
chimpanzees help one another out, or searching for the genetic
underpinnings of language -- are acceptable, or could become so with only
minor modifications, according the committee convened by the National
Academy of Sciences.
These types of
projects are typically less invasive than biomedical research, which could
involve, for instance, infecting chimpanzees with a virus.
example, in behavioral research, chimpanzees -- which, like humans, are
social -- must live with others, and may not be anesthetized by being shot
with a dart. However, chimpanzees can be trained to offer their arms to have
blood drawn or accept anesthesia so they can be examined, according to the
The criteria for both types of
research are based upon three general guidelines: The knowledge gained by
the research must be necessary to advance public health; the research cannot
ethically be done on a human being, or is not possible on another animal or
in something that is not a living organism; and the chimpanzees used in the
research must be given appropriate places to live.
In practice, this
National Institutes of Health (NIH) will not award any new grants for
research until an assessment process is in place, and a project-by-project
review will be conducted to determine if ongoing research fits the criteria,
said NIH Director Francis Collins, who accepted the committee's
are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, providing exceptional
insights into human biology, and the need for special consideration and
respect," Collins said in a statement on Thursday.
He estimated that
about 37 research projects might be affected, and that, of these, about half
may not be continued.
These criteria will only apply to research
projects that receive some kind of NIH support, including animals used by
private groups but housed using federal money, according to committee member
Warner Greene, a virologist at the University of California, San Francisco.
Although the committee did not review projects, it
did provide two examples of biomedical research that met its criteria to
continue, at least temporarily.
Research using chimps to study
monoclonal antibodies was given a temporary reprieve to avoid substantially
slowing research. Monoclonal antibodies are similar to the regular
your immune system produces, but they are designed to target specific
molecules. They are used to treat a variety of conditions, including cancer
The committee's 10 members were also split
on whether a vaccine intended to prevent or minimize
hepatitis C infection would require safety testing on chimpanzees.
"I think the committee accurately identified the few biomedical topics
for which continuing involvement of chimpanzees is essential," said Joseph
Erwin, a primatologist who specializes in the care of captive primates and
the neurobiology of aging.
Erwin, along with many
others, presented his views to the committee during its deliberations.
"If research is done in humane ways under good conditions with
consideration for the animals, I don't see why anyone should be against it,"
Erwin said. "People who oppose all animal research seem not to be aware that
scientific research can be done without harming or hurting animals. In fact,
that is the only kind of study I find acceptable."
A future of
But Theodora Capaldo, president of the New
England Anti-Vivisection Society/Release & Restitution for Chimpanzees, said
she believes the new guidelines mean an end to all work with chimpanzees,
including those typically considered less invasive, such as for instance, a
behavioral study involving an MRI scan.
"If that criteria is
scrupulously applied, it is an end to chimpanzee research. We do not believe
there are any projects out there that can meet that criteria," Capaldo said.
Even though the committee did leave the door open to
future testing on chimpanzees, biomedical
research on chimpanzees is on its way out, said Andrew Rowan, chief
scientific officer of the Humane Society of the
"Biomedical and research technology has changed dramatically in the last
25 years. What was necessary in 1980 is no longer necessary today, and what
is necessary today will no longer be necessary in 2020," Rowan said.
The use of cell cultures � when cells are grown without an organism � allows
researchers to generate higher volumes of data under more easily controlled
conditions and have replaced animals, including chimpanzees, in labs, Rowan
"Chimpanzees deserve greater moral consideration than we are
currently giving them. It is going to come to an end, the question now is
when," Rowan said.