1. Scientific Steering Committee ‘Statement’ section
12 July 2007
In its first statement, the SSC considers that the use of NHP will need to be decided on a case-by-case basis, taking into account:
- the possible existence of alternatives
- ethical considerations
- the problems that could result from not using NHP (i.e. perceived need)
- unnecessary and duplicated or redundant research using nonhuman primates should be avoided at all costs (and for example by a EU-wide coordination between research laboratories),
- that the housing and welfare conditions of the animals should be optimal
- that, for each research proposal, it should be verified that no alternative is available and that it is ethically justified.
However, it considers that for certain experiments there may be no alternatives to the use of non-human primates, for example, drugs and vaccines for diseases such as: AIDS, TSE 1, malaria, influenza.
ADI Response – alternatives:
Although the SSC supports the adoption of alternative methods, experience has shown that non-animal alternatives will not be widely introduced without parliamentary action. For example:
- Hepatitis C: The SSC states that this virus cannot be cultured and therefore chimpanzees must be used. This is no longer correct. Various authors have published in vitro hepatitis C models, including as recently as 20056.
- In a recent review of in vitro replication models of HCV it was said, “For regulated expression of HCV in vitro, numerous models have been reported, wherein all or part of the HCV genome has been expressed in cell culture”. Some were described as “…representing a major breakthrough…” and that they provide “…a powerful tool for studying the HCV life cycle and developing antiviral strategies against HCV going into the future”. The paper notes, “the limitations in both the variable course of HCV infection in chimpanzees and their endangered status required the development of more practical models for the future studies on HCV replication”37.
- Furthermore, work on establishing a culture method for hepatitis C virus has been ongoing for at least ten years; a 1997 paper reported use of human liver tumour tissues, and that significant progress in the development in vitro cell culture systems of HCV had been made in several laboratories36.
- Malaria: The SSC justifies the use of primates in malaria research by stating that primate malaria parasites are very closely related to human malaria parasites. However, this approach does not address the problem of the fundamental differences between humans and other primates.
- Furthermore, it is unnecessary, as many papers have now been published on the use of alternatives to animals in malaria research, for example: Malaria parasite studies utilizing methods exclusively or in combination with each other in vitro7; human volunteers8; epidemiological studies of the disease in the environment9; studies of human and parasite genetic diversity99; as well as vast literature reviews10.
Increasingly refined methods and human-specific biochemicals are used within drug research, development and testing, which requires the use of sophisticated humanbased testing systems, for example:
- human skin models
- QSARs (predict effects of chemicals based on their structural properties)
- dendritic, liver, endocrine and other tissue/cell cultures
- DEREK (knowledge-based toxicity predictor)
- physiologically based biokinetic models
- New technology developed by NASA has been used to create a 3D neurotoxicity testing system using human cells;
- fMRI: This technology enables visualisation of brain cortex function in response to physical tasks, by detecting an increased flow of oxygenated blood in areas of nerve activity;
- Similar advances in the design of functional brain imaging techniques such as Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) also allow the brains of humans to be studied, without causing harm
- Synthetic Aperture Magnetometry: a brain imaging technique to noninvasively record nerve cell activity in the human brain without the limitations encountered with previous techniques.
- human stem cells can be stimulated to grow into any type of tissue. This can be used to cure diseased organs and tissues.
- DNA “chips”, or micro arrays, carry hundreds or thousands of short strands of DNA. These can be used to identify which genes have been damaged when human cells have been exposed to test substances, giving an indication of the degree of toxicity. This technology, called toxicogenomics, could save animal lives, and offer a sensitive test method using human genes in order to avoid the problems associated with species differences.
- Volunteers can be used for pharmacological studies to investigate the uptake of new drugs and their actions upon the body. Properly controlled volunteer studies also play a significant role in psychiatric and psychological research.
The university of California Centre for Animal Alternatives has created a search grid of databases of alternatives to animals, which enables researchers to access information quickly and easily. One of the links in the “toxicity” section leads to a website access to “approximately 360 abstracts about alternatives to irritation and corrosion testing in animals that are currently on-site”98.
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