The University of British Columbia intends to kill four rhesus monkeys in order to study Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson's disease is a serious illness that is specific to humans. In the experiment, the monkeys will be injected with a toxin that will artificially produce Parkinson's-like symptoms, and subsequently killed for post-mortem analysis.
The group ”Stop UBC Animal Research” has offered to buy the monkeys and send them to a sanctuary.
Photo credit: Reuters
Non-human models used in the study of Parkinson's disease are far from adequate as they do not mimic the cause of human Parkinson's disease, the progressive neurodegeneration, or the destruction of non-dopamine cells. As the cause of Parkinson's is specific to humans, an animal model can at its best only recreate some of the symptoms, but not the actual disease. Giving neurotoxins that mimic the effects seen in Parkinson's disease does not faithfully model the human disease, meaning that the results of such studies are often difficult to interpret.
Finding a cure for Parkinson's disease should be a priority, however animal models are not predictive of human response and cannot provide the same insight into human diseases. Decades of research using animal models have provided neither a cure nor treatment, and any past progress in treating the disease has relied on human study. Species differences play a critical role in the clinical expression as well as the cellular specificity. Parkinson's disease is caused by part of the human brain degenerating; animals do not have a comparable basal ganglia and could not possibly reflect the complexity of the human basal ganglia. Damage to corresponding parts of monkey and human brains does not cause the same symptoms. The induced disease in animals does not follow the same time course as in humans; degeneration may take place over several years in humans, whereas the illness is, for practical reasons, induced much quicker in research animals. Animal-models are further limited by the lack of patient communication – animals cannot describe their symptoms.
In order to gain insight into human neurodegenerative diseases, to study the pathology and progress of the disease, it is necessary to perform human studies. Several organisations, such as the Dr Hadwen Trust and the Humane Research Trust, are funding research into major human diseases to replace animal research. There is a wide range of non-animal research techniques that are cheaper, quicker, more effective and more predictable. These methods include brain-imaging techniques, post-mortem brain tissue from patients, computer simulations, human genetic studies, population analysis, and clinical research with human volunteers. New brain scanning techniques are already providing far more relevant insight into neurological disease than invasive operations on monkeys. While in vitro studies of human brain tissue have helped tremendously in gaining insight, autopsies on human patients are the most valuable method in studying neurological illnesses.
I ask that you immediately halt this proposed experiment. Please release the monkeys so that they may be sent to a primate sanctuary. The group ”Stop UBC Animal Research” has already offered to buy the research monkeys. Also, please consider diverting funds to relevant, humane non-animal research. Animal models are a poor method of studying human illnesses. The University of British Columbia should pursue alternatives to animal testing and end all research on animals.
Thank you for your time.