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Advisory Group Urges NIH to Retire Most Chimps from Research

Jan 23, 2013 05:53 AM EST

An advisory group has proposed that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) should end many research projects and retire most chimpanzees used in their scientific studies.

The panel's report recommends the retirement of 93 percent of nearly 700 chimpanzees the NIH currently supports, in an effort to restrict using chimpanzees in research work.

"In many cases, chimpanzees are no longer a necessary component of that research," researcher Daniel Geschwind, who co-chaired the working group that issued the recommendations, told Chron. "There is no compelling scientific reason to maintain a large research population."

The new report was released in response to a 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report which found that most research work on chimps was unnecessary.

Following the IOM report, an advisory group reviewed 22 NIH-funded research studies using chimps and found that half of the studies on chimps were not needed. This includes some biomedical and behavioral studies using chimps.

For example, the report proposed that six of nine biomedical projects involving 81 chimps could be stopped. Similarly, 13 comparative genomics and behavioral studies that use 290 chimps were also recommended to shut down, reports Science Insider.

The panel allowed some projects to be continued if the research work follows the new criteria for living conditions, which suggests that each chimpanzee should live in a group of six other animals in at least 1,000 square feet of outdoor space

Based on the analysis of the number of chimps that the NIH supports, the panel advised most chimps to be retired. The working group has insisted that the number of chimps used in research work should be reduced to a colony of just 50 within a span of five years.

While some researchers have welcomed the move, others have expressed their disagreement with the working group's recommendations. Texas Biomedical Research Institute also criticized the proposal. In a statement released by the institute, it said, "respectfully disagrees with the working group's recommendations that severely limit the future use of chimpanzees in biomedical research and that will slow urgently needed medical advances necessary to prevent and treat human diseases that afflict millions of Americans as well as hundreds of millions of people living in other countries."

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