Nonhuman Primates

World-class colony of nonhuman primates

Texas Biomed is home of the Southwest National Primate Research Center.

Texas Biomed is perhaps best known for its world-class colony of nonhuman primates. Because of their close similarity to humans in genetics and physiology, these animals fill a unique and critical role in efforts to understand human health and disease. Like people, they are susceptible to complex diseases such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), diabetes and osteoporosis, as well as various infectious diseases. By studying these animals in a controlled environment, scientists can develop a better understanding of the biological processes that underlie and contribute to disease. They then can use this information to develop new, more effective ways to prevent and treat disease for the benefit of both humans and animals.

This makes the Institute's primate colony a tremendous resource, both for Texas Biomed researchers and their collaborators throughout the country and around the world. Texas Biomed is home to approximately 3,000 nonhuman primates, including chimpanzees and a variety of monkey species. By far the majority, though, are baboons. With approximately 2,000 of these animals, Texas Biomed has the world's largest colony of baboons for biomedical research. Approximately 1,200 of these baboons are part of a unique pedigreed colony, on which scientists have maintained complete family, health and genetic histories for seven generations. Essentially all of the animals in the pedigreed colony have been genotyped, and that information has been used by Texas Biomed scientists to create a baboon genetic linkage map, the first gene map of any nonhuman primate. Together, the pedigreed colony and the baboon gene map give scientists an incredibly powerful research tool for finding the genes that underlie natural susceptibility to or protection from a variety of diseases.

Because of Texas Biomed's extraordinary primate resources and its distinguished history in the humane and appropriate use of animals in research, the National Institutes of Health awarded funding in 1999 for it to establish the Southwest National Primate Research Center. This made Texas Biomed home to the first new national primate research center since the program was established in the 1960s. One of eight in the country, it is the only primate center in the Southwest. The primate center designation and related funding have enabled Texas Biomed to further develop its primate colony, enhance its animal facilities, and expand its role as a resource for biomedical research organizations across the United States.

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