NIH hosts nonhuman primate workshop amidst increased scrutiny of monkey research | Science
More than three years after it hosted a workshop on the science and ethics of biomedical research on monkeys, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) this week convened one other workshop on nonhuman primate research. And very similar to the earlier occasion, the assembly is drawing sharply divergent reactions from biomedical and animal advocacy teams.
“It was a very good look at the opportunities and challenges of doing this type of research,” says Alice Ra’anan, director of authorities relations and science coverage on the American Physiological Society, a gaggle that represents almost 10,000 scientists, docs, and veterinarians. It was “an excellent and robust discussion around fostering rigorous research in nonhuman primates,” provides Matthew Bailey, president of that National Association for Biomedical Research.
But Emily Trunnell, a research affiliate at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights group, counters that the occasion was a wasted alternative to speak concerning the ethics of utilizing nonhuman primates within the first place. “It was just a bunch of scientists clamoring for more money and more monkeys.”
The workshop comes at a time when scientists are utilizing a near-record quantity of rhesus macaques, marmosets, and different nonhuman primates in biomedical research. The animals, many researchers say, have turn into more and more essential in revealing how the human mind works and in growing remedies for infectious illnesses. There’s been a specific surge in demand for marmosets, that are being genetically engineered to function fashions for autism, Parkinson’s, and different neurological problems.
But it additionally comes at a time of increased scrutiny of monkey research. In the previous three years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ended nicotine habit research on squirrel monkeys, scientists have more and more struggled to move nonhuman primates, and a few members of Congress have referred to as for stricter oversight of research with these animals. In addition, President Donald Trump signed language into legislation in December 2019 that requires NIH to discover options to monkeys, FDA to draft a plan to cut back the quantity of monkeys it makes use of, and the Department of Veterans Affairs to cut back or eradicate its use of nonhuman primates throughout the subsequent 5 years.
None of these strikes—all pushed by animal advocacy teams—was on the agenda at this week’s workshop, held Tuesday and Wednesday on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Nor was there a dialogue of monkey retirement to sanctuaries, a rising subject within the biomedical neighborhood.
Instead, the assembly targeted primarily on enhancing the rigor and reproducibility of monkey research. “We want to make sure experiments are designed well to best address scientific concerns, and that all of the information allows other scientists to confirm and validate the results,” says Carrie Wolinetz, NIH’s affiliate director for science coverage.
Keynote speaker Steve Hyman, director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research on the Broad Institute, which conducts research on nonhuman primates, kicked off the workshop by stating that monkeys have been “very important and valuable models”—a sentiment echoed all through the assembly. Simon Barratt-Boyes, a primate researcher on the University of Pittsburg, stated nonhuman primates have offered “fundamental advances” in our understanding and therapy of human infectious illness, and that they are going to be key to persevering with to combat these illnesses, together with the present coronavirus outbreak. When it involves this space of research, he stated, mice can’t precisely replicate the physiology of people.
Others referred to as for extra funding and amenities in order that scientists may enhance the quantity of monkeys they use. “We are going to need more primates in the short run,” stated William Newsome, a neuroscientist at Stanford University. Because these animals are one of the best mannequin for a quantity of sorts of research, he argued, “It may help us save thousands or millions of mice.”
Joseph Garner, a behavioral scientist at Stanford, pushed again. “There seems to be an assumption that primate models are better,” he stated. “I don’t think that’s always true. I’m really scared that if we start mass producing genetically modified primates, we’re going to fall into the same traps we have with other animals.”
Garner was amongst a handful of members who argued that enhancing the lives of research animals isn’t simply good for his or her welfare, it’s good for the science as properly. This may embrace offering the monkeys with bigger cages and extra naturalistic environments, others stated on the assembly, and coaching nonhuman primates to volunteer for procedures like injections and blood attracts. “Treating animals more like human patients is the future of lab animal science,” Garner stated.
Other classes targeted on choosing the proper monkey species for particular varieties of research, higher methods to share information in order that pointless experiments aren’t performed, and optimizing examine design to gather essentially the most correct outcomes. “We need to be very thoughtful and deliberate about the way we are answering these questions,” Wolinetz says. A examine that isn’t designed properly may find yourself utilizing extra animals than it wants, she says, or failing as a result of it used too few animals. “Nonrigorous science is unethical.”
Still, Trunnell says there wasn’t almost sufficient dialogue of ethics on the workshop—one thing she blames, partly, on organizations like hers not being invited to take part. “People kept on saying that welfare was key to good science, but no one has stopped their research to make these vital changes,” she says. “If they truly cared about the data and the welfare of these animals, they would get these things done first.”
Asked whether or not there was a disconnect between Congress pushing for much less monkey use and scientists arguing for extra, Ra’anan agrees that there’s. But she says there’s additionally a contradiction posed by Congress telling NIH that it must do extra to handle diabetes, the opioid epidemic, and different human well being issues, whereas on the similar time telling it to cease utilizing “the best research model you have” to review this stuff. “That’s a disconnect, too.”