Tag Archives: NHP

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.

Presently, the use of animals in research, especially NHP, is highly regulated and under EU Directive 2010/63 no animal can be used if there is any practical alternative method. The Scientific Committee on Health Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) confirmed in its 2017 updated opinion, the continued need and benefit of the use of NHP in research, and stated, “the current state of knowledge does not permit to propose a timetable for phasing-out the use of NHP in Europe”.

The letter also explains that research primates continue to be used in relatively small numbers (currently 0.05% of all research animal used in the EU) but they have made an extremely important contribution to many significant medical advances, for example the polio vaccine, life support systems for premature babies and deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s Disease.
EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “BPRC carries out essential research on diseases such as AIDS, malaria and MS and we are working together with it to ensure its message is heard and understood by the Dutch government.”

The letter went on to say: “The research community is fully committed to the 3Rs principles: replacement; reduction; and refinement and we support the minister’s call for greater sharing of data in research with laboratory animals, including the publishing negative results, which is in line with the sector’s own desire for greater transparency and openness.

“The sector actively seeks opportunities to replace animal studies with alternative methods, to design studies that enable us to reduce the number of animals needed to obtain a scientifically valid result and to refine studies to minimise pain and distress to the animals involved. This has already led to a significant reduction in the numbers of animals used, of all species, in recent years.”

Netherlands Minister Proposal
Netherlands Minister Proposal (in Dutch)

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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.

Most reports have, however, downplayed that possibility. The eventual birth of Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua followed the production of 260 early embryos, resulting in 43 pregnancies of which 41 failed. Such failure rates would not be tolerated as reasonable to produce human offspring. Also, the SCNT technique used to produce Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua were only successful with cells taken from foetal, rather than adult tissue. The attempts made with adult tissue all failed. Although we do have a primate clone, therefore, we still do not have a primate clone generated from adult cells as was the case for Dolly. That makes the prospect of cloning as a fertility treatment, and more fanciful suggestions of rearing a clone of an adult or recently deceased relative, currently distant. Continue reading