News / USA

Study: Chimps Used in Medical Research Show Signs of Post-Traumatic Stress

Proposed US law would limit experimentation with the primates

Chimpanzees used in medical experiments often experience maternal separation, social isolation and solitary confinement.
Chimpanzees used in medical experiments often experience maternal separation, social isolation and solitary confinement.

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

Chimpanzees who've been subjected to invasive laboratory experiments show signs of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD) and other psychiatric disorders seen in traumatized humans, according to a new study by animal welfare activists.

About 1,000 chimpanzees currently live in private and government-run laboratory facilities across the United States, where they are used as subjects for medical experiments.

The study findings, published in the non-profit science journal PLoS ONE, focus new attention on a proposed U.S. law to ban the use of chimpanzees in some types of medical research.

Shedding light

The two-year study examined the cases of more than 350 chimpanzees including former lab chimps now living in sanctuaries and those in the wild.

The study's lead author, Dr. Hope Ferdowsian, directs research policy for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a private group that promotes alternatives to the use of animals in research, education and training.

Ferdowsian undertook the study primarily for ethical reasons.

“Chimpanzees are taken from their mothers at a very early age, sometimes just after they’re born," she says. "Chimpanzees are also forced into isolation many times as a result of being used in Hepatitis and other protocols. So there are clear harms associated with the use of chimpanzees in research, and we wanted to look at exactly how chimpanzees are affected by all the harms that are inflicted upon them over the course of a lifetime.”

Negra's story

In collecting their data, Ferdowsian and her colleagues relied on feedback from the chimps’ caretakers, who - in many cases - had known the animals for years.

One of the subjects was Negra, who spent 30 years as a test subject in biomedical research before being transferred to a chimp sanctuary.  

Negra's caretakers describe her as socially isolated and withdrawn, and she assumed a depressed, hunched posture, much like you’d see in humans with depression.

Negra spent three decades in biomedical research labs. (Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest)

“She walked around with a blanket over her head, really isolating herself from the rest of the world,” says Ferdowsian.

Her study concludes that the behavioral changes Negra and many other chimps exhibited after their laboratory experiences were very similar to those seen in combat veterans suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  

Proposed changes

Ferdowsian supports pending legislation in the U.S. Congress which would phase out experiments on chimpanzees and retire the apes to sanctuaries.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett,  a Maryland Republican, was a scientist before becoming a congressman and is now the main sponsor of "The Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act." He says Ferdowsian’s study confirmed what he already knew.

“That these animals aren’t the usual cow or pig or horse. They really are very different," says Bartlett. "They are primates and they have a huge brain and they have many characteristics similar to humans. It didn’t surprise me, but I was pleased to see the study.”

Foxie was used in hepatitis vaccine research. (Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest)

But some scientists involved in chimp-assisted research challenge the validity of Ferdowsian’s study and the proposed ban.

John VandeBerg, a biomedical researcher and director of the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio, Texas, finds serious flaws in the study and considers its conclusions invalid.

"The authors appear to have tried to assign a human disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, to these chimpanzees and this syndrome is defined primarily by psychological characteristics such as persistent nightmares, recurrent distressing feelings about the event that they have suffered," says VandeBerg. "Chimpanzees aren’t able to relate to us whether they are having nightmares or recurrent, distressing recollections.”

'Devastating blow'

VandeBerg, who uses chimpanzees in the medical research he conducts at his Texas facility, says the animals are treated humanely.

“We have many chimpanzees here at the Southwest National Primate Research Center that have been here for many decades, who’ve been used in experimental research over many decades. They do not exhibit symptoms of depression, and certainly as I say, there is no way of diagnosing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.”

VandeBerg says chimpanzee research has led to life-saving medical gains.

“For example, the Hepatitis B vaccine would not have been developed without research with chimpanzees. Hepatitis B vaccine was given to the children in 116 countries of the world. That was a huge medical breakthrough which will save hundreds of millions of human lives.”

Banning the use of chimps in research,  VandeBerg says, will deal a devastating blow to medical research.

But study lead author Ferdowsian insists that there are alternatives for medical research that do not involve using animals, such as computer simulations, cell and tissue cultures, genetic analyses and human population studies.  

And, Ferdowsian says, passage of the Great Ape Protection Act would bring the United States into line with the ethical research standards adopted by other countries.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid