The Need for Primates in Research

baboon

Nonhuman primate research has led to major medical breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of diseases in both humans and animals.

Although less than 0.5 percent of all animals used in research are primates, work with these animals is important to scientific understanding of human health and disease. Over the years, research with nonhuman primates has led to major medical breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of diseases such as polio, Rh disease, and hepatitis.

Texas Biomed enjoys a long and distinguished history in the use of nonhuman primates, particularly baboons and chimpanzees, in biomedical research. The Institute maintains the world's largest baboon colony, composed of more than 2,000 animals.

In June 1999, Texas Biomed was designated as the site of the new Southwest National Primate Research Center as a result of the extensive animal resources and scientific expertise in nonhuman primate research present at the Institute. Work with these animals has numerous advantages:

Genetic and Physiological Similarities

Primates are genetically and physiologically more similar to humans than are other animal species. Use of nonhuman primate models allows investigation of complex physiological characteristics that are shared only by humans and other primates.

Infectious Disease Susceptibility Similarities

Only humans and other primates are susceptible to many of the infectious diseases that threaten human populations. For example, the chimpanzee is the only animal besides man that is susceptible to infection with hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses. Unlike humans, however, chimpanzees do not develop liver disease from these infections. This characteristic makes chimpanzees a valuable model for hepatitis research. In fact, work with chimpanzees at Texas Biomed was instrumental in the development of a successful vaccine for hepatitis B, which is now given to school-age children. Today, Texas Biomed scientists are continuing their research efforts to develop a similarly successful vaccine for hepatitis C.

Similarities in Characteristics of Menopause

Only humans and some nonhuman primates undergo menopause. No other animal models are available for studying health issues related to the natural onset of menopause.

Similarities in Chronic Disease Profiles

Primates more closely resemble humans than any other animal model in manifestations of the chronic diseases that are the major public health problems in the United States today. For example, nonhuman primates have naturally occurring atherosclerosis, osteoporosis and hypertension, making them ideal animal models for these conditions.

Ability to Control Matings

The ability to control breeding of nonhuman primates allows experimental testing of specific genetic hypotheses that is not possible in human populations.

Ability to Control Environment

Primates can be maintained in a similar environment throughout life. The ability to control and maintain environmental factors facilitates many experimental evaluations not possible in human populations.