Tag Archives: monkeys

Statement by EARA on video footage taken from the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology (LPT) in Germany

This is a public statement just issued by EARA, regarding video footage that appeared this week in the media of several European countries. 

The European Animal Research Association (EARA) was established to better inform the European public and political decision makers of the continued need for, and benefits of, the humane use of animals in biomedical research.

The use of animals, including monkeys and dogs, has played an important role in the safety testing of new medicines and chemicals that may affect human health. In addition, under existing EU legislation, safety testing on animals before human trials is a legal requirement.

EARA was shocked and dismayed to see footage taken from inside the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology (LPT) in Hamburg Germany. Whilst the footage has been edited, and we would ask that the unedited footage be made publicly available, what has been shown so far reveals unacceptable animal welfare standards.

The handling subjected to some of the animals, the cages monkeys are held in, and the post-operative conditions that some animals were left in, do not belong in any twenty first century research facility.

EARA was disappointed that LPT has so far refused to answer any of the questions raised by the film, even after EARA has urged them to. Such silence does a disservice to the thousands of researchers and research institutes in Europe involved in the honourable endeavour of biomedical research, and who pay a high regard to animal welfare.

We urge LPT to make a full statement addressing these concerns, and to work with the authorities in its investigation of LPT’s compliance with animal welfare practices and regulations.

Kirk Leech
EARA Executive Director

Pig hearts and human ingenuity

Animal-to-human transplants are on the horizon.

In an article that first appeared in Spiked, academic and author Stuart Derbyshire, applauds the progress towards xenotransplantation.

In August 1979, British surgeon Terence English successfully completed the first heart transplant in the UK. This month he was making headlines again by predicting that we will be successfully transplanting hearts grown in pigs into human patients by 2022.

The transplantation of organs from animals into humans, known as xenotransplantation, would be a huge benefit to those waiting for transplants. There are currently around 6,000 people on the UK transplant waiting list, and over 400 of them died waiting last year. Donor pools are simply insufficient to meet demand.

The insufficiency is getting worse for at least two (good) reasons. First, transplantation techniques are improving, and that means ever greater numbers of patients are becoming eligible for transplantation, increasing demand on donor pools. Secondly, the safety, health and longevity of everyone is improving, meaning that the pool of young, healthy, eligible donor organs is shrinking. Solutions other than human-to-human transplantation are necessary to meet the demand-and-supply gap.

One solution is xenotransplantation, and a report from a team of surgeons in Germany last December brought that solution much closer to fruition. The team transplanted pig hearts into three groups of baboons. Four baboons made up the first group and the results were poor. Three of them survived only one day, and the last survived just 30 days.

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Drug trial breakthrough shows that Ebola is ‘no longer incurable’

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, looks at the remarkable progress in biomedical research in the search for a cure for Ebola virus which has devastated parts of central Africa in the last year.

This week, marking the first anniversary of the most recent Ebola outbreak, scientists running a clinical trial of new drugs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have announced a dramatic increase in survival rates.

For countries, such as the DRC, Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, Ebola is a serious health emergency. They are among the poorest countries in the world, only recently emerging from years of civil war and unrest that has left basic health infrastructures severely damaged or ruined. Living conditions are often restricted and unclean, water supplies are limited, medical treatment is scarce, and trust in officialdom, pretty much non-existent.

Massive underdevelopment and the attendant problem of political dysfunction have created a situation in which a virus like Ebola can flourish. Since 2014 a total of 28,616 cases of Ebola and 11,310 deaths were reported in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. This is what is driving research into finding a way to halt the spread of the disease

Now, thanks in part to research involving mice and non-human primates the sponsors of the current clinical trial in DRC have announced a real breakthrough. While an experimental vaccine that was proven to be effective in monkeys had previously been shown to shield people from catching Ebola, this new development marks a first for people who have already been infected.

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Dutch Parliament backs primate research

In response to calls to reduce the number of experiments with non-human primates (NHP) by up to 40% in the Netherlands the Dutch Parliament has now reached a compromise.

In two motions, the parliament acknowledged the importance of animal research (including NHP) for scientific and medical progress and has stated that the 40% reduction should relate to commercial research, a goal supported by the Biomedical Primate Research Center, which has been the focus of these controversial proposals.

In addition, responding to calls that NHP research should be centralised in the Netherlands, the Parliament said that this should only be done if the facilities agreed to the proposal themselves.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “It is good to see that the Dutch Parliament has recognised the value of primate research in the country and is working with the sector to adopt proposals that are workable”

Primate poposal by Netherlands government ‘will severely limit progress on biomedical research’.

EARA has responded to a call by the Dutch Science Minister for the Biomedical Primate Research Centre (BPRC), in the Netherlands, an EARA member, to draw up a proposal, by the beginning of next year, to reduce the number of experiments with no-human primates (NHP) by up to 40%.

Ahead of a debate, which took place in the Netherlands House of Representatives earlier this month, EARA wrote to Ingrid van Engelshoven, Minister of Education, Culture and Science and Carola Schouten, Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, urging them not to set an artificial limit on the number of NHP used in research.

The letter, written by EARA, said that any reduction was “highly likely to severely limit the progress that can be made in both fundamental research and the development of innovative medicines and treatments for life-threatening diseases and infectious disease control”.

Currently the main areas of primate study are infectious diseases, neuroscience and fertility and foetal research. Primates are an important model for the development of vaccines and treatments for HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika and malaria and for investigations into treatments for conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to Schizophrenia. They are also used in safety testing for new medicines and vaccines. Continue reading

Another year of medical achievements thanks to animal research

A look back by EARA at some of the important discoveries in recent times

The last year has once again seen an impressive list of medical achievements globally, as scientists find better treatments for devastating diseases.

Among the breakthroughs reported are:

  • Human trials are now closer for an Ebola vaccine with a team at UW–Madison School of Veterinary aiming to produce an experimental vaccine (March 2018) that has already been proven to work safely in monkeys.
  • Researchers at University College London have announced (Dec 2017) that there is now hope for a way to stop Huntington’s disease, described as the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases in 50 years.
  • 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded with help of fruit fly (drosophila) study. The discoveries of the group of scientists who worked on the project show how plants, animals and humans co-ordinate their biological rhythms with the Earth’s daily cycle.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “There is no doubt that we would not see the remarkable advances in biomedical research that have occurred recently, without the use of animals.

“While alternative methods to animal research, such as computer models and cell cultures are important, testing using animals remains the safest and most effective way to produce drugs and treatments for us all.”

Animal research is integral to ongoing research in areas such as spinal cord repair, stem cell treatments (Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), gene therapy (muscular dystrophy, diabetes) and molecularly targeted cancer medicines.

Historically, animal research has also led to new diagnostic tests for early treatment (cancer, heart disease); and effective treatments for serious illnesses (diabetes, leukemia, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease).

The same research often helps humans and animals (treatments for arthritis, neurological disorders, organ transplants, cancer therapies) and contributes to farm animal welfare and techniques to save endangered species.

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Germany sees 7% rise in animal research procedures in 2016

This article first appeared in Speaking of Research 06/02/18

Germany’s Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft) has produced its 2016 annual statistics on animal research procedures for Germany. These statistics have seen some big changes from previous years and we will attempt to show comparisons according to the different methodologies used. Germany produces two sets of data as part of the Animal Protection Act.

  • 7(2) – procedures on animals
  • 4(3) – animals killed solely for tissues or organs without any prior procedures

A mouse procedure

Historically, Germany has used data from animals used under both §7(2) and §4(3) of the Animal Protection Act to create a dataset of animals used in research. This dataset was broken down by varying categories including use, severity, genetic status and more. This year, while the old totals can be seen, the main datasets are numbers of procedures on animals, excluding animals killed for tissues or organs (under §4(3)). This newer methodology puts Germany in line with the EU reporting requirements for animals in research – allowing for easier comparisons between countries.

In 2016, Germany reported 2,189,261 procedures on animals, up 7.1% from 2015. The number of animals is slightly lower at 2,131,448 (due to some animals being used in more than one procedure during 2016). Continue reading

Three cheers for China’s cloned monkeys

The cloning of primates is a great scientific breakthrough.

Academic and author Stuart Derbyshire hails the scientific possibilities of the successful cloning of non-human primates in China.

It’s likely that you have heard of ‘Dolly’ the sheep, famously announced as the first mammal ever to be successfully cloned, in February 1997 (Dolly was born in July 1996). Dolly was a product of Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT), which involved taking an adult cell from the udder of a female sheep and using the nucleus from that cell to replace the nucleus of an egg from another female sheep. The egg was successfully encouraged to fuse with the new nucleus using electric shocks and then began to divide as would a normal embryo. The fused egg was implanted into a third female sheep for gestation. Dolly, bizarrely, had three mothers, and was a genetic clone of the mother who donated the udder cells.

Last week, scientists from Shanghai’s Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience reported that they had used a similar SCNT technique to clone two macaque monkeys – called Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua. Cloning of animals by SCNT had been previously reported in 23 other mammal species, including mice, cattle, pigs, rats, cats and dogs, but had never before been reported in a primate species. The relative genetic closeness of humans and monkeys has generated a lot of hand-wringing and concerns about the now nearer possibility of human cloning.

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Hundreds of scientists sign letter supporting primates in neuroscience

Over 400 primate and neuroscience researchers signed a letter supporting the use of non-human primates in neuroscience, which was published in the Guardian today. Coordinated by Understanding Animal Research (UAR), the letter emphasises the key role that primate research has played and continues to play in vital neuroscience research. EARA signed the letter alongside 20 other institutions, as well as reaching out to our networks in Europe to gain further support. The letter can still be signed via this link.

The letter is a timely response to mounting pressure by animal rights groups against the use of non-human primates in biomedical research. Last week, the Independent published a letter coordinated by Cruelty Free International denouncing primate research, and earlier this year, the Australian Senate rejected a proposed ban on importing non-human primates for scientific research. The UAR letter is the latest in a series of efforts from the scientific community to underline the importance of this type of research, including the Foundation of Biomedical Research’s White Paper on primate research and the National Institutes of Health workshop held last week.

Kirk Leech, EARA’s Executive Director, said:

“NHP research continues to underpin our understanding of brain processes and debilitating brain conditions and allows assessing the efficiency and safety of a candidate drug. Animal research, in particular with regard to primates, is highly regulated on legal and ethical grounds as enshrined in European Directive 2010/63.

“Out of the 4.14 million procedures completed in the UK in 2015, only 0.16% were performed on primates, which accounts for 3,600 procedures. This number does not even represent the real number of primates used in procedures, since some animals undergo several procedures to reduce the use of animals. Out of this small proportion, only 0.8% were classified as severe. 

“Accurate and contrasted information is necessary to ensure a balanced dialogue that considers all risks and opportunities involved, especially in such a contentious issue as using primates in neuroscience research. We encourage and support the scientific community in the quest to provide timely and truthful information to promote scientific research.”

Full text of the letter:

Nonhuman primates have long played a key role in life-changing medical advances. A recent white paper by nine scientific societies in the US produced a list of 50 medical advances from the last 50 years made possible through studies on nonhuman primates. These included: treatments for leprosy, HIV and Parkinson’s; the MMR and hepatitis B vaccines; and earlier diagnosis and better treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome and breast cancer.

The biological similarities between humans and other primates mean that they are sometimes the only effective model for complex neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. More than 10 million people suffer from Parkinson’s worldwide, and a recent study estimated that one in three people born in 2015 will develop dementia in their lifetime. Primate research offers treatments, and hope for future treatments, to patients and their families. Already over 200,000 Parkinson’s patients have had their life dramatically improved thanks to deep brain stimulation surgery, which reduces the tremors of sufferers. This treatment was developed from research carried out in a few hundred monkeys in the 1980s and 1990s.

Given that primates are intelligent and sensitive animals, such research requires a higher level of ethical justification. The scientific community continues to work together to minimise the suffering of primates wherever possible. We welcome the worldwide effort to replace, refine and reduce the use of primates in research.

We, the undersigned, believe that if we are to effectively combat the scourge of neurodegenerative and other crippling diseases, we will require the careful and considered use of nonhuman primates. Stringent regulations across the developed world exist to ensure that primates are only used where there is no other available model – be that the use of a mouse or a non-animal alternative – and to protect the wellbeing of those animals still required. The use of primates is not undertaken lightly. However, while not all primate research results in a new treatment, it nonetheless plays a role in developing both the basic and applied knowledge that is crucial for medical advances.

For an up-to-date list of the signatories to the letter, see the website of Understanding Animal Research.

Studying the Zika virus in rhesus macaques

The 2016 Olympic Games are due to begin in Rio de Janeiro this weekend. In the lead-up to this year’s Games, the Zika virus has never been far from the headlines. A number of top golfers and basketball players have decided to pull out and other athletes have also expressed their concerns, despite the risk to anyone who is not pregnant being minimal. As it is not currently mosquito season in Brazil, experts say the Olympics will not accelerate the spread of the virus.

It is thought the epidemic has reached its peak in Latin America and will slowly burn out over the next few years. Still, there have been over 60,000 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Brazil since the outbreak began in early 2015 and the virus has reached Europe, with the first baby with Zika-related microcephaly born in Spain. Mosquitoes in Florida have now also been seen to transmit the virus, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US have issued a travel warning for Florida.

Dr Koen Van Rompay, D.V.M. Ph.D., virologist at the California National Primate Research Center

Dr Koen Van Rompay, virologist at the California National Primate Research Center, studies the Zika virus in monkeys

The Zika virus remains a prominent public health concern and a priority for the biosciences. In March, EARA spoke to Dr Koen van Rompay, who helped to develop and test the anti-viral drug tenofovir, which is currently the most frequently used HIV drug in the world. We interviewed him on the day before he and his team at the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC), USA, infected two female rhesus macaques with Zika virus to understand how the disease progresses. We asked him about his current study on the Zika virus, why he uses primate models in his work and how he responds to critics of animal research. Continue reading