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Report: Get the Chimps Out of the Lab

December 19, 2011

RICHMOND, Va. - Most of the time, the apes are simply not needed. That's a new finding from the Institute of Medicine about whether chimpanzees are necessary for biomedical and behavioral research funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Jeffrey Kahn at Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics in Baltimore, who helped prepare the report, says advances in other technologies can replace the animals for most projects.

"Humanized animals, in vitro is another approach, and there's even some work to try to create computer-based models that may obviate the need for chimpanzees."

The term humanized animals generally refers to animals which have had human genes inserted to make them suitable for testing of medical products meant for humans.

Dr. Kahn says the committee did not reach agreement on whether chimpanzees are essential to research in developing a Hepatitis C vaccine. Chimpanzees and humans are the only two species susceptible to the disease, and chimpanzees' immune systems are better at clearing it.

"It's a disease that affects many millions of people worldwide, and the majority reason for liver transplant in the United States. So, it's an important disease."

The report sets stringent guidelines for situations in which chimpanzees are essential, along with requirements for techniques that are minimally invasive and allow for animals to be in natural habitats, when possible.

A bill that would ban lab testing on chimpanzees has been introduced in Congress, and Virginia's 8th District Congressman Jim Moran is one of more than a hundred co-sponsors. This new study was ordered by Congress to assess the need to use chimpanzees in research.

See the report at ht.ly/80QVr.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA