Public opposition to non-human primate (NHP) experiments is significant, yet those who defend them cite minimal harm to NHPs and substantial human benefit. Here we review these claims of benefit, specifically in neuroscience, and show that: a) there is a default assumption of their human relevance and benefit, rather than robust evidence; b) their human relevance and essential contribution and necessity are wholly overstated; c) the contribution and capacity of non-animal investigative methods are greatly understated; and d) confounding issues, such as species differences and the effects of stress and anaesthesia, are usually overlooked. This is the case in NHP research generally, but here we specifically focus on the development and interpretation of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), deep brain stimulation (DBS), the understanding of neural oscillations and memory, and investigation of the neural control of movement and of vision/binocular rivalry. The increasing power of human-specific methods, including advances in fMRI and invasive techniques such as electrocorticography and single-unit recordings, is discussed. These methods serve to render NHP approaches redundant. We conclude that the defence of NHP use is groundless, and that neuroscience would be more relevant and successful for humans, if it were conducted with a direct human focus. We have confidence in opposing NHP neuroscience, both on scientific as well as on ethical grounds.
Predicting Human Drug Toxicity and Safety via Animal Tests: Can Any One Species Predict Drug Toxicity in Any Other, and Do Monkeys Help?
Jarrod Bailey, Michelle Thew and Michael Balls
Animals are still widely used in drug development and safety tests, despite evidence for their lack of predictive value. In this regard, we recently showed, by producing Likelihood Ratios (LRs) for an extensive data set of over 3,000 drugs with both animal and human data, that the absence of toxicity in animals provides little or virtually no evidential weight that adverse drug reactions will also be absent in humans. While our analyses suggest that the presence of toxicity in one species may sometimes add evidential weight for risk of toxicity in another, the LRs are extremely inconsistent, varying substantially for different classes of drugs. Here, we present further data from analyses of other species pairs, including nonhuman primates (NHPs), which support our previous conclusions, and also show in particular that test results inferring an absence of toxicity in one species provide no evidential weight with regard to toxicity in any other species, even when data from NHPs and humans are compared. Our results for species including humans, NHPs, dogs, mice, rabbits, and rats, have major implications for the value of animal tests in predicting human toxicity, and demand that human-focused alternative methods are adopted in their place as a matter of urgency.
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Assertions that the use of monkeys to investigate human diseases is valid scientifically are frequently based on a reported 90–93% genetic similarity between the species. Critical analyses of the relevance of monkey studies to human biology, however, indicate that this genetic similarity does not result in sufficient physiological similarity for monkeys to constitute good models for research, and that monkey data do not translate well to progress in clinical practice for humans. Salient examples include the failure of new drugs in clinical trials, the highly different infectivity and pathology of SIV/HIV, and poor extrapolation of research on Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and stroke. The major molecular differences underlying these inter-species phenotypic disparities have been revealed by comparative genomics and molecular biology — there are key differences in all aspects of gene expression and protein function, from chromosome and chromatin structure to post-translational modification. The collective effects of these differences are striking, extensive and widespread, and they show that the superficial similarity between human and monkey genetic sequences is of little benefit for biomedical research. The extrapolation of biomedical data from monkeys to humans is therefore highly unreliable, and the use of monkeys must be considered of questionable value, particularly given the breadth and potential of alternative methods of enquiry that are currently available to scientists.