Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New Primate Links

All of following links from

Evolutionary Bio No-Go for Low Income Student Grants
A disturbing situation for those of us who need these. Hopefully it will be remedied and is not a sign of the coming apocalypse.

Gibbon Bipedal Walking Video
This is so neat. The way the gibbon walks leaves me with an image of how our early ancestors moved. Filmed at a zoo.

YouTube undercover clips of OHSU primate lab - **disturbing**
This crap is exactly the reason why I will never work in a primate lab. It's also the reason I did not apply to the grad program at Emory despite the opportunity to work with Frans de Waal. He doesn't participate in this sort of research, but his institution maintains an affiliation with a National Primate Research Center that does. I have to say, some of the clips could have been edited to make it look worse than it is; those shown could represent a vanishingly small propostion of the primates at OHSU; and there ARE researchers who study self-injurious behavior to help these primates, BUT I still hate to see this happen.


ScienceWoman said...

I think Thus Spake Zuska (over at scienceblogs) blogged about the disappearance of evo bio grants. If I recall her posts correctly, the situation has been remedied.

Anonymous said...

How can you know the clips you saw with the explanations were true? Things taken out of context and given a spin are often not as they seem. In order to do primate research strict regulations must be adhered too. In fact when an animal is sick or injured it must be documented so that the animal is treated. Animals that self injure are not common, and ones that do are often given other extra enrichment to try and solve the problem. The glib talking on the clips 'explaining' the research most likely misrepresented why the research was being done in the first place. No research only monitering how monkeys responded to airplanes would get funded. There most certainly is another more biologically driven reason for the study- the results of which are hopefully helpful to other animals and humans.

Holly said...
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Holly said...

Anon - I agree with you. If you read my commentary on it, you will see that. SIB (self-injurious behavior) is an extremely pernicious and very difficult problem to treat. Putting duct tape over the injury site is only a Band-Aid solution. Giving opiate-blockers is another route, but then those animals become useless test subjects because their system is altered. Indeed any animal used in an experiment who shows abnormality should be removed from data analysis. I question how often this is actually done.

About the purpose of the airplane experiment - you're right, there is another LEGITIMATE reason. It probably relates to stress. Many people are interested in better understanding stress and its effects on physiology and behavior. Animals seem like logical subjects to use for this because scientists can control the environment far more precisely than with human test subjects.

We have learned a good deal about stress and its effects through animal experimentation. The graduate course I took in Psychoneuroimmunology discussed this research extensively and I am sure I could write a thesis on the subject, but suffice it to say that the number of studies on mice and rats was exponentially larger than that on primates. If we can learn about stress by using mice and rats, why use primates?

Because they are behaviorally and physiologically closer to us so we can predict more accurately what will happen with people?

That's the same argument for NOT using them. If they are so close to us to make them a good model, isn't it morally wrong to harm them? Shouldn't we find a way to test humans if that's the population we really want to predict?

I have little problem with testing primates to learn about and help primates. I also have a strong position that harmfully experimenting on primates for the sake of learning about humans is something I personally would NOT do.

I don't want anyone else doing it either unless it is likely to produce significant and NOVEL results that can be applied to improve the welfare of primates. If a few primates get harmed along the way, then we have jolly well got to do our very best to remedy the situation.

Taking them out of the lab and placing them in therapy at an institution that specializes in primate rehabilitation would be an acceptable alternative to what happens now.

Also, for every primate that is harmed in an experiment or test, a mandatory donation should be made to that now-hypothetical institution.

Anonymous said...

We will have to respectfully disagree. I believe primate research is important for other primates and people. The majority of researchers I know have great respect for their animals and take the best care they can of them. They want their animals to be healthy and well adjusted, especially if they are studying behavior. You said you were against all primate research, what about non-invasive work that helps us understand evolutionary links like, cooperation? Marmosets and cotton tail tamarins studied at harvard are not mistreated in the least, they work together to earn marshmallows and are well fed, housed and socialized. You also said primates should not be studied because they are so close to us, but if they are studied carefully (so as not to harm them) why not? Why judge all primate research on clips from a few bad examples? No animals should be abused or mistreated, but most reasearch does not abuse or mistreat animals. Also, in order to do any drug research most has to be tested on animals before humans can volunteer to take the trial doses. While rats and mice can give a lot of information, oftent times they do not react in ways that are as similiar enough to humans. Vaccines for Hepatitus B were developed using primates, but the virus does not develop and make primates sick. It lives in their body but does not attack, this allowed researchers to test vaccines that eventually led to a vaccine that works for humans. Would you call this a worthless goal, or harming the primates? It is a novel end which you said you supported. Most research with primates is done to learn something new. Researchers do not aspire to harm and repeat dangerous work, again that is not the goal and they would not get funded. I know I will not change your mind. But please do not judge all primate research as harmful based on false evidence.

Holly said...

Dear Anonymous,
I think you should have read my statement more carefully before posting. Perhaps you should re-read it. Nowhere did I say I am against all primate research. I just said that research that is harmful to primates ought to be novel and likely to yield beneficial applications before I would be comfortable with it being done. I also said that I personally would not participate in that kind of research. In other words, if a herpes vaccine could be developed through primate research (which certainly would qualify as both novel and beneficial), I personally would not participate in giving primates herpes, but if someone else did, I would be fine with that as long as any monkeys who got hurt along the way received the very best therapeutic treatment afterwards. If you re-read my statement, you will also see that nowhere did I say "primates should not be studied because they are so close to us." I said that similarity is one argument that can be made in opposition of primate research. I emphatically support the study of primates. Field research, observation of captive populations, non-invasive study - all of that is acceptable to me, although I could imagine research situations that I would not support. Primate medical research is an area that I have strong reservations about. I am glad we are having a dialogue about the important issue of primate research.