Entries in Monkeys (5)


Baboons Can Recognize Words, Study Finds

Tom Brakefield/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Researchers in France discovered that baboons can recognize hundreds of four-letter words on a computer screen, and they can tell a real word apart from a nonsense jumble of letters, according to a study published in the journal Science.

Every time they tapped the right icon identifying whether the letters on the screen were a real word or just a jumble, they got a treat. The baboons, however, are only spotting sequences of letters so they can get fed.  They don’t actually understand what the words mean.

“The baboons use information about letters and the relations between letters in order to perform our task… This is based on a very basic ability to identify everyday objects in the environment,” Dr. John Grainger at the Aix-Marseille University told BBC Nature.

In other words, any monkey can recognize that something is a word, but not every primate can be literate.  Still, the researchers say they are “excited” about the results of their study.  

Going into it, they didn’t know if the six Guinea baboons would be able to pull it off.  Dan the Baboon will never appreciate Dr. Seuss, but it’s still pretty impressive that he can recognize more than 300 words. And with further study we might learn something more from them about how humans first learned to read.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Vaccine Protects Monkeys from HIV

ABC News Radio(NEW YORK) -- An experimental vaccine appears to give monkeys some protection against a version of HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. Scientists say the research gives big clues about the most essential elements needed to develop a successful HIV vaccine for humans.

In the study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, scientists gave rhesus monkeys a vaccine against SIV, the monkey version of HIV. The monkeys were then exposed to a strain of the SIV, a difficult-to-treat strain that was different than the one used to create the vaccine. The monkeys that were vaccinated seemed to be partially protected against the virus, which reduced their susceptibility to infection by 80 percent.

When the monkeys did become infected, the amount of the virus that appeared in their blood was substantially lower than monkeys that were not vaccinated.

The successful vaccines all contained an essential element, called Env, which helps the virus bind to the antibodies that can destroy it.

“The study demonstrates very clearly that in order to prevent acquisition of the virus, a vaccine needs to have an Env glycoprotein component,” said Eric Hunter, professor of pathology and co-director of the Center for AIDS Research at Atlanta’s Emory University who was not involved with the study. “I would say this is significant progress in the process of trying to develop a protective HIV vaccine.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Chimp Research Unethical, IOM Says

Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte(WASHINGTON) -- The Institute of Medicine has called for strict limits on the use of chimpanzees -- the closest genetic relatives to humans -- in medical and behavioral research.

“The committee concluded that research using animals that are so closely related to humans should not proceed unless it offers insights not possible with other animal models and unless it is of sufficient scientific or health value to offset the moral costs,” said Jeffrey Kahn, chairman of the IOM committee,  in a news release. "We found very few cases that satisfy these criteria.”

The IOM’s report said the amount of research conducted on chimps had decreased over the past 10 years but should continue only if there were no other suitable models for the research, the research could not be conducted ethically on humans and not using chimps would slow or prevent important progress against life-threatening diseases.

Chimpanzees are viewed as more accurate models for how diseases and treatments develop in people than other animals, such as mice. But because chimps share some behavioral characteristics with humans, many scientists have concluded that experimenting on them is unethical.

Scientists have used chimps to develop vaccines and treatments for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and the IOM report said private research companies have used the animals to test drug safety and efficacy.

The primates are used both by federally funded researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  as well as by researchers in the private sector.

The U.S. is one of only two countries that conduct invasive research on chimpanzees; the other is Gabon in central Africa. There are approximately 1,000 chimpanzees in U.S. research facilities, according to a report in the New York Times.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Monkey and Human Adenovirus Breaks the Rules

Comstock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Adenoviruses are a type of virus that causes many different infections in humans, monkeys and other animals.  In humans, adenoviruses are responsible for causing a variety of illnesses including cold-like symptoms, diarrhea and pneumonia, but individual types of adenovirus are not known to spread from one species to another -- until now.  

A study conducted at the University of California-San Francisco shows, for the first time, that a single adenovirus infected monkeys, killing most of them, and a human, who then passed on the infection to members of his family.  Thankfully, the infection was milder in humans and only caused an upper respiratory infection with fever, chills and a cough.  

The authors note in their findings, published in PLoS Pathogens, that the virus, though it belongs to the adenovirus family, is unlike any known monkey or human adenovirus and only shares 56 percent of its DNA with its closest viral relative.  

The study's lead author said, “This is clearly a new species of adenovirus and it’s quite different from anything we’ve seen previously…they [the monkeys] are not likely to be the native host species for this virus.  We still don’t know what species is the natural host.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Monkeys Fattened Up for Ongoing Obesity Study

ABC News(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- Mario, Hoopa Troopa, Freckles, Casper, Good Lookin', and Cuddlebug and are just some of their names. They are rhesus macaques, monkeys who sit around all day in small cages, snacking on tasty high-fat treats. In fact, sitting and snacking has become their life's purpose.

They are part of a controversial obesity study at the oldest primate research center in the country, the Oregon National Primate Research Center in Portland, Ore., where researchers are trying to turn 150 monkeys into perfect couch potatoes.

The hope is that studying their bodies will provide clues about human obesity, a condition that affects 70 million Americans.

Dr. Kevin Grove, the neuroscientist leading the research, said that the goal here is to mimic the lifestyle and eating habits of obese people.

"We are trying to model that sedentary lifestyle," Grove said. "That sitting around all day eating tasty treats, sitting in the cubicle at work, eating those snacks all day long...they [the monkeys] will sit there and snack, just like a human will."

Kept in small cages to limit exercise, these monkeys are fattened up with high-fat, high-sugar snacks including peanut butter lard treats and a syrupy sugar drink meant to imitate a human's consumption of a can of soda a day.

"They get about 35 percent of their calories from fat," said Grove.

While most of the monkeys don't look obese to the naked eye, there is one that unmistakably does. His name is Shiva, and he weighs 45 pounds, which is more or less equivalent to a 5-foot 10-inch man who weighs 250 pounds.

Shiva's potbelly drags along the floor of his cage when he moves. Much like the other monkeys at the center, he can't seem to hide his excitement when presented with his next treat. The scientific junk food has taken a toll. Shiva is in a pre-diabetic state.

Under these conditions, the monkeys will often develop obesity-related illnesses. In fact, several of them are full-blown diabetics who depend on their daily insulin shots to survive. According to Grove, diabetic monkeys help researchers understand more about how the illness works in humans.

Just as some obese humans can develop heart conditions, researchers said some of the obese monkeys used in the study will die prematurely from heart attacks or cardiovascular conditions. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio