Primates may have some similarities with humans, but biologically they're still a different species
Our closest relativesPrimates may have some similaritieswith humans, but biologically theyrestill a different speciesAt a first glance, primates are reasonable test subjects for human medicine. They have similarlimbs, can walk on two legs, and posess s skull with some similarities, as well as reflectingsome human behaviour.The reality is that monkey experiments are relevant only to the breed of monkey they arepractised on - not to other species or humans. This is particularly true of experiments on thebrain, including for illnesses like Alzheimers, Parkinsons and even schizophrenia, and fordeveloping new drugs. Monkeys offer nothing more that superficial similarities, complexdifferences and none of these avenues for progress. They also present a number of risks.A track record of failure:Monkey reaction to drugs and chemicals are - like all animal experiments - relevant only tothat species. Theres big differences between conclusions drawn for primate labs and humanexperience. PCP (angel dust), sedates chimpanzees but causes humans experiences includingparanoia. Nitrobenzene is toxic to humans but not monkeys. Human deaths were caused byIsoproterenol, so attempts were made to reproduce the effects in monkeys - and they allfailed. Carbenoxalone caused water retention so severe it caused heart failure - much of whichwas fatal. That could not be reproduced in lab monkeys either. Flosint, an arthritismedication, was tolerated well by the monkeys it was tested on, but it killed humans.Amrinone, a medication used for heart failure, was tested on numerous nonhuman primatesand released with confidence. Humans haemorrhaged, as the drug caused failure in their bloodcells responsible for clotting, in 20% of patients taking the medication on a long-term basis.Of the main human carcinogens, NONE affect monkeys. Actinomycin-D, the first of thechemotherapy drugs, kills monkeys. (Read more about cancer tests here.) Humans die fromHepatitus-B, monkeys just carry the virus. A statistical assessment of how predictivemonkeys are was reached when drugs which cause birth defects were tried on pregnantmonkeys. Seventy percent were passed safe. (read more on this here) Using a method withsuch a proven track record of failure is entirely irresponsible.Chemical warfare vivisectorWouterBasson, tried a gas on baboons. Soon it became clear the
baboons were not suffering any effects. I was very angry. I thought there was something wrongwith the grenade. In a fit of temper, I pulled off my gas mask and threw it onto the ground. Ifell down with the gas mask. Luckily Mijburgh was outside and could drag me out. I spent threedays in hospital. The baboons did not react at all.Brain researchMany people do not have a good working knowledge of how the brain functions, so the idea ofusing monkeys for brain research seems a plausible one. The reality is that like all organs, thebrain is specific to each species. No monkey has a brain with main areas in the sameproportion as humans, or even with all the main areas humans have.In macaques the pre motor cortex and the motor cortex are similar areas, but in humans thepre-motor is six times as large. This massive difference throws a spanner into the worksregarding using macaques for brain research, but their continued use shows only that animalexperimenters will settle for this poor method.In humans 29% of the brain surface is the frontal area, but in baboons this area is 9.5%, andeven less in Capuchin monkeys and marmosets. Studies on rhesus monkeys in the 1980sshowed our sensory cortex to be very different, and the thalamus (which relays messages tothe brain) is different in structure in humans from every known animal.Damage to the brain causes different problems too. Damage to a specific part of thesupplementary motor system in humans causes loss of speech and muscular response. Monkeyslose only minor function. Damage the parietal lobes in humans and they cannot make skilledmovements. Monkeys suffer temporary, slight loss of muscular function. But it is not onlythe parts of the brain which are different - even the blood circulates in a different way: thecompleteness of the circle of Willis and the singleness of the anterior cerebral arterial systemin the monkey point up significant differences within the cerebral circulation itself as betweenthe human being and the subhuman primate.The idea that a monkey brain is a scaled down version of the human brain is just notreasonable. Add in the facts that some area of the human brain (e.g. abstract thought, speech)are not in the monkey, and that lab primates cannot explain how they are feeling or reacting,and this is obviously a blind alley in terms of research. It has failed to build the detailed mapsof the human brain it intended to, and will always do so. It also means inducing humanillnesses in monkeys will fail. Attempts to induce Alzheimers using tissue from human patientsgave the monkeys no Alzheimers, but a form of BSE instead. Attempts to induce acondition similar to Parkinsons failed, and the monkeys recovered. (Read more anboutParkinsons here)Schizophrenia has proved impossible to mimic in the lab because monkeys behave differently
and do not interact with the human environment in the same way. As the field of geneticsemerges, the differences it reveals add more problems to the vivisectors. A vivisectorshandbook admits that although many human diseases are known to be caused by a defect in asingle gene, no illnesses caused by single genes have ever been shown in any monkeyspecies. Research into HIV and AIDS in primates has proved a fruitless failure(read morehere),which has consumed massive resources.Instead of monkey experimentsA common claim is that although imperfect for studying human illnesses, monkey brains arethe best we have and there are no real options. The options available for the expert wantingto study the human brain are actually enormous. Patients, accident victims and healthyhumans offer masses of opportunities, but the advancing technology means clinical study ispossible in an area impossible before. Electroencephalograms (EEG), magnetoencephalography(MEG), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), functional MRI (fMRI), magnetic resonancespectroscopy (MRS), Positron emission topography (PET), single photon emission computedtomography (SPECT), event-related optical signals (EROS) and transcranial magneticstimulation (TMS) have revolutionised brain research. You can read more about this here.Devoting more time and resources into these would yield infinitely more results thaninvestment in monkey experiments. As these methods emerge, their capabilities becomeincreasing apparent, but it would be incorrect to think that they may one day make primatebrain research obsolete. That point has been passed."But today the neurological theatre or the clinical investigation unit is in fact a superblyequipped laboratory, with the important advantage that its experiments are carried outon man rather than the guinea pig". This statement was made in recognition of that pointhaving been passed already - and it was made in 1971. The improvement in technologysince that date has made the continuation of these vivisections indefensible.Biohazard?Apart from being entirely useless for medical science, monkey experiments present a threat ofconsequences far worse than wasted money and delayed progress. The threat of cross speciescontamination from experiments using monkey blood and body parts is enormous. It hasalready happened. The SV-40 virus, a monkey virus, has contaminated polio vaccines. This wascaused by growing the vaccine on a culture of monkey kidney cells. The virus has been foundto be influential in developing cancer, and has been found in many tumours, especially brainand bone cancers.Virologist Dr J. Allen commented on this risk when discussing primate to human transplants:We assume, as given, that these primates carry pathogens that are infectious to humans. Youassume that its something that can kill you. But then in the next breath we turn around and
ship a baboon up to Pittsburgh, they open it up, probably every human in the OR [operatingroom] is exposed to whatever is in there, and they stick it into a human. Does that seemrational?Dr M. Michaels from the University of Pittsbugh, a forerunner in cross species organ transplantshas explained that most often these infections are latent organisms and are often clinicallysilent in the donor, which means it is not obvious that the monkey has it, but it may be akiller. Dr Allen has also reminded us that it is well established that most new emerging humaninfectious diseases have their origin in other species.Worst still, says Dr Allen, some will prove impossible to detect. He claims that none of thescreening methods, registries, surveillance etc, would pick up on an AIDS like virus...[Organtransplant experiments] constitute a threat to the general public health and not merely acomplication of the risk/benefit calculation for the individual xenogenic tissue recipient...Donot use non-human primates as organ donors if you dont want to infect the humanpopulation.The problem is that it would not even need an organ transplant to make this a reality. Staffworking with the monkeys could make the contamination a reality. A variant of HIV (HIV-2) isso similar to the primate virus SIV, that a primate source is a highly likely candidate for itsorigin. Lab workers exposed to monkey blood infected with SIV have tested positive for SIV,which is known to cross species barriers. If it has not already happened, the threat it posesis a massive and terrifying risk.HTLV-2 causes leukaemia in humans, and is thought to have originated in monkeys as STLV.The Marburg virus, transmitted by monkeys, killed seven people in the 1960s. Patients lostmental function, bled from all orifices, fell into coma and died after heart failure. Ebola alsocauses bleeding from all orifices, and is believed to have come from monkeys. AsJaapGoudsmit, who discovered Type-D simian endogenous retrovirus in baboons explained, hisfind was scary...its one of those viruses that might be activated in a new host. Theevidence of a threat is obviously there, and is a potential carnage. Is it really worth the riskfor such a maze of dead ends and pointless experiments?The knowledge gulfAs with so many aspects of vivisection, theres a massive gulf between what the public andauthorities can be conned into believing, and the reality. But the truth is also easy todemonstrate and simple to back up. The answer to this problem, as always, is education.References Pharmacologist, 1971, vol.18, p 272. Br J of Pharm, 1969, Vol. 36; p35-45. Inman, W.
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