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New research published by BUAV & NEAVS calls for end to use of chimpanzees

16/01/2012

A scientific paper by Dr Jarrod Bailey, the BUAV's Science Advisor, entitled ‘Lessons from chimpanzee-based research on human disease: the implications of genetic differences’ has been published today in the journal, Alternatives to Laboratory Animals. The paper is the result of a joint project between the BUAV and NEAVS (the New England Anti-Vivisection Society) Boston, USA and the ‘Project R&R: Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees in U.S. Laboratories’.

This new paper pulls together and reviews salient arguments against the validity of using the chimpanzee and the proposed necessity of its use in current and future research into various human diseases. Claims that humans and chimpanzees differ genetically by only one or two percent are critically assessed, and important genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees that affect all areas of the function of our genes are summarised. These genetic differences are shown to combine to generate vastly different biological differences, including susceptibility to diseases and the courses those diseases take, which make the chimpanzee poorly relevant to human disease research - including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, cancer, and others for which the chimpanzee has been used most in recent years. The paper concludes by making the argument in favour of ending the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research, and of using available alternatives, by pulling together the ethical and financial, as well as scientific, aspects.

In collating prominent evidence highlighting the genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees, together with the tangible consequences of these differences and what they mean for the usefulness and human relevance of the chimpanzee in biomedical research, this new work by BUAV and NEAVS provides a useful and much-needed summary of the arguments surrounding the continued use of chimpanzees in invasive laboratory research. ‘Lessons from chimpanzee-based research on human disease’ will be a valuable resource in furthering sound scientific discussion of this matter, which has serious consequences for both the chimpanzees involved and for human health and wellbeing.

The BUAV works closely with the NEAVS, particularly on Project R&R. NEAVS is pushing for legislation in the form of the U.S. ‘Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act,’ which would prohibit the use of great apes in U.S. medical research.

In May 2011, Dr. Jarrod Bailey was invited by the U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM), in his capacity as Science Director of NEAVS, to testify to a committee investigating the use of chimpanzees in medical research and drug testing. Dr Bailey presented convincing evidence during his 20-minute testimony and subsequent cross examination, referencing some of his own extensive work over the last six years, that the use of chimpanzees in HIV / AIDS, cancer, hepatitis C, and other human disease research has been limited, inaccurate, unnecessary and has contributed little or nothing to human health. In summarising his research for the Committee, he declared:

After careful review of over thirty years of chimpanzee use in many areas of human disease research, the following conclusions can be drawn and supported scientifically: Chimpanzees are rarely used today. They have proven to be poor “models” in many areas, including HIV / AIDS and hepatitis C. Chimpanzee use in cancer and heart disease research has been almost non-existent because either they don’t get the disease, or they get a very different disease. And there is burgeoning evidence of major, important and widespread genetic differences showing why chimpanzees are poor models for human research… and why they can never be good “models.”

Dr Bailey has subsequently supported his testimony via submissions to the IOM committee of written responses to, and rebuttals of, the testimonies of those who wish to see chimpanzee experiments continue. 

The BUAV is confident that this paper, along with Dr. Bailey and NEAVS’s other work, compelled the IOM to announce in the results of its inquiry that ‘most current biomedical research use of chimpanzees is not necessary,’ with the only major exception being an inconclusive decision regarding hepatitis C vaccine development.

For more information on NEAVS campaign please visit ReleaseChimps.org