Tag: animal models

Nikhil Kulkarni, MD

In 1966, Henry Beecher called attention to common ethical problems associated with human research at the time. His publication, “Ethics and Clinical Research,” in the New England Journal of Medicine, helped lead to major advancements in the area of human clinical research ethics and medicine. Like Beecher was, I am an anesthesiologist. I care deeply about my patients and their potential involvement in research. I’m grateful that we have acceptable moral standards to guide the conduct of human research today. I am also concerned about the suffering of animals. Nonhuman primates are autonomous and intelligent individuals. NIH needs to better examine the ethics of using these sentient beings in research, and problems with their use, as Beecher did for human research fifty years ago. An increasing number of physicians and scientists are calling attention to problems with translating nonhuman primate research to human clinical scenarios. This has major implications for patient care. Viable, more ethical, predictive alternatives exist. NIH should focus on supporting the implementation of these alternatives, and developing other more valid and reliable human-centered research models. For humane, scientific, and medical reasons, NIH needs to move away from using nonhuman primates as non-consenting vulnerable research subject.
Nik Kulkarni, MD
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Richard J. Brown, DVM

The U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals Used in Testing, Research, and Training states that experiments involving animals “should be designed and performed with due consideration of their relevance to human or animal health, the advancement of knowledge, or the good of society.” However, analyses of the scientific literature documents that data gleaned from experiments on monkeys have failed to reliably translate to humans. Examples of disappointing failures in various areas of research abound. Taking HIV/AIDS as an example, nearly 90 vaccines have worked in monkeys and every single one has failed in humans (1). Nonhuman primate models of Parkinson’s disease “have failed to reproduce key features of Parkinson’s disease, both in function and in pathology” (2)—and several therapies that showed promise in monkey models of the disease failed in humans (3). Similar problems with extrapolation have been documented with the use of nonhuman primates in toxicology and drug testing, Alzheimer’s research, and stroke research (4).
1. Bailey J. An assessment of the role of chimpanzees in AIDS vaccine research. Alternatives to Laboratory Animals 2008;36:381–428.
2. Akhtar A. The flaws and human harms of animal experimentation. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. 2015 Oct 1;24(04):407-19.
3. Lane E, Dunnett S. Animal models of Parkinson’s disease and L-dopa induced dyskinesia: How close are we to the clinic? Psychopharmacology 2008;199:303–12.
4. Bailey J. Monkey-based research on human disease: the implications of genetic differences. Alternatives to laboratory animals: ATLA. 2014 Nov 1;42:287-317.