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Entries in Research (26)

Wednesday
Aug142013

Researchers Link Childhood Stomachaches with Mental Health Issues

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Could a simple tummy ache be a warning sign of future mental health problems? A new study says it might.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University studied nearly 500 children with and without "chronic abdominal pain," and found that more than half of those who reported pains went on to experience an anxiety disorder. Just 20 percent of the children who did not report abdominal pain suffered from anxiety disorder. Kids with chronic stomach pain were also more than twice as likely to deal with depression.

Doctors hope that this study may help them understand the link between psychiatric problems and how the body processes pain.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
May042012

Junior Seau's Family Donates His Brain to Science

Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- Junior Seau's family plans to donate his brain to science, San Diego Chargers chaplain Shawn Mitchell announced Thursday evening.

While Seau's family has said it is not looking to discover anything new about their son and what led to his death, said Mitchell, it hopes that others can benefit through anything that can be learned through the study of his brain.

Jacopo Annese, director of the University of California at San Diego's Brain Observatory, said that while there is no definitive link between blows to the head and such severe health problems as depression, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, he did say there was strong scientific and anecdotal evidence for such a connection.

"However ghoulish it may appear to the majority of the public, the work that is conducted postmortem is essential to validate this hypothesis, because the important clues are at the cellular-level, and we can't see these with MRI, but we can with our microscopes," Annese told ABC News.

While research methodology has not changed dramatically, the questions have evolved, offering clues into the potential lifetime adverse effects of hits and blows to the head.

"Searching for the link between traumatic injury and more subtle and insidious effects like depression, suicide and dementia," said Annese, "has been particularly crucial in the world of sports, where unprecedented body mass and acceleration create the scenario for severe trauma if there is a collision."

On Thursday, the San Diego County Coroner ruled former longtime NFL linebacker Junior Seau's death a suicide.

Officials conducted a forensic autopsy, which includes "a full examination of a decedent's body and organs and collection of specimens for laboratory studies."

Seau, 43, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest Wednesday morning at his Oceanside, Calif. home.

The 12-time former Pro Bowl player's death came one day before more than 100 former NFL players filed a federal lawsuit in Atlanta, claiming the league did not properly protect them against concussions and did not properly provide medical care after they finished their careers.

On Thursday morning, rumors swirled as to whether Seau shot himself in the chest so that his brain could be studied. He didn't leave a note, but Sports Illustrated reported Thursday that Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy requested to study Seau's brain. The sports mag later clarified the statement by saying the center attempts to examine the brains of all athletes who die after making a career playing hard-hitting sports. It is not known where Seau's brain will be sent for study.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
May042012

California Researcher Dies From Infection He Studied

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The death of a 25-year-old researcher studying a sinister strain of bacteria has highlighted the hazards of infectious disease research.

The man, whose name has not been released, died Saturday at the San Francisco VA Medical Center from a meningococcal infection he may have acquired while working at the hospital the day before.

Headache, fever and chills set in just two hours after the researcher left the lab where he was helping to develop a vaccine for Neisseria meningitidis, a bug that causes life-threatening blood infections and meningitis.

"The early symptoms of this infection are very non-specific," said Dr. Harry Lampiris, chief of infectious diseases at the San Francisco VA Medical Center. "In the first few hours, people don't realize how sick they really are."

The next morning, the researcher woke up with a rash, and asked friends to drive him to the hospital, Lampiris said. But he lost consciousness in the car, and arrived without a pulse. Despite repeated attempts to resuscitate him, he died that afternoon.

This is not the first time a researcher working with meningococcal disease has become infected and died. A 2005 study in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology describes 16 cases between 1985 and 2001, eight of which were fatal. In 15 cases, the researchers were working without the proper respiratory protection.

"It looks like he took all the appropriate precautions," said Limpiris, describing the ventilated workspace in the lab that sucks air up and any from the person handling the bacteria. "But this is under investigation by Cal-OSHA [California Occupational Health and Safety Association]."

Calls to Cal-OSHA were not immediately returned.

Neisseria meningitidis is transmitted person-to-person through respiratory droplets. The San Francisco Department of Public Health identified 10 people who had close contact with the researcher, including his girlfriend and his roommates, and treated them prophylactically with antibiotics, according to department spokeswoman Eileen Shields.

The VA Hospital treated an additional 60 people, including the researcher's coworkers and medical staff involved in his treatment, according to Lampiris.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which is not directly involved in the investigation, is consulting with local health officials.

"It's exceedingly rare for someone to acquire a fatal infection due to the work they perform in the lab," said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner. "When something like this happens, it's a tragedy. We want to learn as much as we can about what happened as a way to prevent it from happening again in the future."

Limpiris said the researcher was "well-trained, hard-working and very talented."

Dr. William Schaffner, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., said procedures and protocols can never eliminate the hazards of working with infectious diseases.

"There are very elaborate, very thoughtfully prepared safety protocols in place, but there's always a risk," he said, a risk researchers carefully weigh against the benefits of vaccines and treatments that save millions of lives.

"This work is essential in order to develop preventive measures," he said. "Let's not forget this is a dangerous strain of this bacteria for which we do not have a vaccine."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
May042012

Beehive Glue Stops Prostate Cancer in Mice

Comstock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Researchers at the University of Chicago found that a compound made in honeybee hives seems to stop the spread of prostate cancer cells in mice.

The compound, called caffeic acid phenethyl ester or CAPE, is made from propolis, the resin honeybees use to patch holes in their hives. The product has been known and used for centuries as a natural remedy for teeth and skin, as well as a defense against viruses and bacteria.

When the researchers fed CAPE to mice that had early stages of the human form of prostate cancer, it seemed to stop the cancer in its tracks.

“Their tumors simply stopped growing,” said Richard Jones, the study’s author and a cancer researcher at the University of Chicago. “When we stopped feeding the mice CAPE, their tumors returned.”

After six weeks, the tumors in mice eating CAPE were 50 percent smaller than the tumors in mice not getting the compound, whose tumors kept growing unchecked. The CAPE mice also didn’t lose any weight during the treatment, which researchers said indicated that the compound was not overly toxic.

The researchers said the compound didn’t kill the cancer, but it appeared to stop the growth of the cancer cells by masking their ability to use a system of signals to detect nutrition. If cells don’t sense the presence of the food they need, such as glucose, they will stop growing.

The study was only in mice, and the compound has not yet been tested in human cancer patients. But Jones said the cell pathways targeted by CAPE are found in all mammal cells. He said he is hopeful that CAPE will prove useful against cancer in humans, most likely in combination with other available cancer therapies.

“One can imagine in the context of cancer prevention or early stage cancer, administering this molecule as a natural low-risk way to reduce proliferation of this and other types of cancer cells,” Jones said.

A next step will be for clinicians to test the compound in human patients.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May022012

Controversial Deadly Bird Flu Research Finally Published

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After months of controversial government assessment, the journal Nature published research Wednesday that discloses methodology behind creating a deadly strain of bird flu that could kill millions.

By conducting research in ferrets, a team of Japanese and U.S. researchers found that it would take four mutations of the bird flu virus for the strain to successfully spread from birds to mammals. The research comes after months of delay because of arguments that pitted the cause of medical preparedness against the dangers of disclosing information that could help bioterrorists.

The study is the first of two research papers that discuss the methodology behind creating deadly avian flu strains that have potential to kill millions.

“Currently, we do not know whether the mutations that we identified in this study that allowed the [study strain] virus to be transmissible in ferrets would also support sustained human-to-human transmission,” study authors wrote. “In particular, we wish to emphasize that the transmissible [study strain] virus possesses seven segments [all but the HA segment] from a human pandemic 2009 H1N1 virus.”

The second paper, which will be published in the journal Science, discusses the methodology behind a deadly H5N1 strain created in a Dutch laboratory at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam by scientist Ron Fouchier.

The team, headed by Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, submitted the paper last year to the journal, but publication was delayed after the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity made the unprecedented decision to assess the findings prior to publication. But, in a commentary published Wednesday, Nature editors noted that “a paper that omits key results or methods disables subsequent research and peer review....We cannot imagine any mechanism or criterion by which to sensibly judge who should or should not be allowed to see the work.”

They also remarked, “Where there is a benefit to public health or science, publish!”

Since it appeared in 1996, H5N1 has killed hundreds of millions of birds, but transmission to humans has been rare. There have been about 600 confirmed cases of infections in people, mostly people who worked directly with poultry. While rare, it is a deadly human disease. About 60 percent of those who had confirmed cases of the virus died.

Up until now, experts believed that the strain was transmissible from person to person only through very close contact, but Fouchier mutated the strain, creating an airborne virus that could be easily transmitted through coughs and sneezes.

“Research into how flu viruses change, how they develop the ability to infect different species, is critically important for preparing for pandemics,” said Dr. Richard Besser, chief medical editor at ABC News. “It helps you predict what the next pandemic might be and to develop new vaccines.”

The dilemma is that this sort of research has dangers, Besser said. But manipulating the genome of microorganisms is now something even a talented high school student can do.

“The fear is that terrorists will take the lessons from this kind of research and use it to deliberately cause disease,” said Besser. “How you balance the importance for public health with the potential for harm is extremely challenging.”

Experts contacted by ABC News in December were split on whether the research should be published. While most virologists believe in non-censorship for the good of public health, some talked about the potential danger of releasing information on a virus that was so easily mutated.

“The idea that biosecurity consists in policing scientists or chimerical ‘bioterrorists’ is dangerous nonsense,” said Philip Alcabes, a professor in the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College. “Who knows what the motives of the self-professed biosecurity experts really are, but in practice, their ridiculous pronouncements promote vast expenditures of taxpayer monies that achieve little outside of propping up the very biosecurity industry from which the warnings come.”

“Censorship offends me, particularly in science,” John Barry, author of The Great Influenza, said in December. “Nonetheless, I think there should be review of something like this...but not necessarily by the government. It should be done by people who respect scientific openness, and publishing should be the default position.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar302012

Keeping Chilly Lab Mice Warm: Key to Better Science?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Joseph Garner imagines how much happier and healthier lab mice would be in a kinder, gentler environment than the stark cages in chilly laboratories -- and how that, in turn, might improve the outcome of research that underlies human medical advances.

In searching for “one thing we could put in every mouse cage in America that would make every mouse better off and would improve the quality of science done with every mouse,” he focused on a simple fact: mice are chronically cold and suffer from thermal stress.

That “one thing” that could be put in every cage is turning out to be shredded paper, which chilly mice use to build toasty, warm nests like the ones that wild mice build, according to a study published Friday in the journal PLoS One.

Given between a fifth and a third of an ounce of crinkly, coarse shredded paper called Enviro-dri, the mice went to work weaving “these beautiful igloos that are just incredible,” said Garner, an associate professor of comparative medicine at Stanford University in California. He conducted the research while at Purdue University in Indiana, with his then-graduate student Brianna Gaskill, now a postdoctoral scientist at Charles River Laboratories in Wilmington, Mass.

Because mice are nocturnal creatures, he said the lab mice were busy during nighttime hours in the lab, “very much like ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’ They’re very naughty at night.”

Garner has devoted much of the last seven years to understanding why 90 percent of compounds that look promising in animals go on to “fail in human trials.” He’s convinced their environment is part of the answer.

A mouse living in captivity is “a little bit like you or I living in a glass house being looked after by Tyrannosaurus rex,” he suggested. And a drafty house at that. That’s pretty close to conditions for mice, whose 98.4 degree body temperature is close to the 98.6 degrees of the lab technicians who tend to them. But air temperatures in research laboratories typically are kept between 68 and 75.2 degrees, putting them in a state of “cold stress.”

Garner is among the few U.S. scientists “really generating good data to support what animals ‘need and want,’ because animals clearly have their own needs,” said Joanne Zurlo, director of science strategy at the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. Without convincing proof that mouse well-being matters to scientific results, she said other scientists likely won’t buy into the idea that they need to make changes after “keeping mice in these conditions for umpteen years.”

The world’s largest breeder of laboratory mice, which has been supplying mice for the research, recognizes the important influence of laboratory conditions.

“The animal’s environment is a crucial factor in research,” said Kathleen Pritchett-Corning, director of research and professional services for Charles River Laboratories. “In research, we can control almost all aspects of an animal’s environment, but we don’t always know what’s best for the animal.”

She said the company has been “testing this material for our own use and have been very pleased with the results thus far.” She also suggested providing lab mice with nesting materials “could be a huge gain in welfare” and that other elements of lab animals’ environment are “ripe for study,” such as light levels, noise, air movement, type of bedding and feed.

“The healthier and more ‘normal’ the animal, the better the science,” said Pritchett-Corning, a veterinarian who has been working with mice for nearly 20 years. “The better the science, the more likely it is to lead to discoveries and advances that affect human health. It doesn’t matter what kind of animal it is, it deserves the best care we can provide.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar202012

Bias Can Exaggerate Drugs’ Effectiveness

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- Doctors -- and patients -- might not be getting all the information they need about the safety and effectiveness of certain drugs because of “publication bias,” the tendency of researchers and medical journals to favor positive results over negative ones.

Researchers running drug trials are required to submit detailed results to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But when it comes to reporting trial results publicly in medical journals, “it’s an entirely different ballgame,” according to Dr. Erick Turner, lead author of a study published Tuesday in PLoS Medicine.

“Doctors are trained to regard medical journals as the gospel truth,” said Turner, assistant professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. “But what we’re learning here is it’s not necessarily the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

Turner and colleagues reviewed the results submitted to the FDA for eight antipsychotic drugs used to treat schizophrenia. They then compared the results to those published in medical journals. Four trials submitted to the FDA, all of which had unflattering results for the drug under study, were unpublished.

“It’s kind of like grade inflation,” said Turner. “Say you’ve got a class full of kids. Some are excellent students and some should be failing. If you give everyone an A, an outside person is not going to be able to appreciate there’s a difference between these two sets of kids.”

Even when the studies were published, the journal articles often overemphasized the drugs’ effectiveness.

“Some of what we found could constitute spin, some would fall into the category of shenanigans,” said Turner. “The take-home message is there are loopholes in the publication process by which doctors may be relying on information that’s incomplete or somehow skewed. The drug’s effects may be exaggerated or its safety concerns may be downplayed.”

Turner said researchers working for a drug company might be inclined to withhold data that’s seen as damaging, adding “there’s no law says they have to publish.” But certain medical journals are also less likely to accept negative trials for publication. Bias, Turner said, could be mitigated by leaving the results out of the decision to publish.

“The person reviewing the study for the journal should be thinking, ‘Is this good science?’ rather than basing a decision on the results,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan202012

Researchers Pause Work on Bird Flu That Could Kill Hundreds of Millions

Comstock/Thinkstock(ROTTERDAM, Holland) -- It is the stuff of science fiction: scientists tamper with a killer bird flu virus and create something much worse. But what has been created in a Rotterdam laboratory is not fiction. It is deadly real.

So deadly that the U.S. government -- which funded the Rotterdam research -- asked scientists to omit key details of their research when they are published to keep the formula out of the hands of bio-terrorists. And Friday, researchers announced a self-imposed 60-day "voluntary pause" on any research involving highly transmissible form of bird flu that they have created.

The researchers are responding to the worldwide furor that erupted after word of their work became public. There are serious public health reasons for the research and they want to lower the temperature of the discussion while they explain what they have done and why they have done it.

The lead author of Friday's announcement is Dr. Ron Fouchier, a respected molecular virologist. He heads at Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, that engineered a form of "aerosolized" bird flu that can easily be passed from humans to humans through the air. The genetically-altered flu is thought to be so virulent that if the vials containing it were to get out, the virus would have the potential to spread around the globe and kill hundreds of millions.

Bird flu, also known as H5N1, first surfaced 15 years ago. It has not caused mass panic because it is only transmitted to humans who have direct contact with infected birds. But when humans do contract bird flu, they are likely to die.

According to the World Health Organization of 573 confirmed bird flu cases in humans since 2003, 336 people have died. That's a staggering 60 percent mortality rate. Nothing in history comes close to that.

ABC News was given an exclusive inside look at some of the testing facilities the Rotterdam researchers used. With Fouchier as the guide, ABC News' Jeffrey Koffman donned protective clothing and a face mask and passed through three levels of security to see the ferrets he uses for testing.

Fouchier explained how his lab assistants exposed the ferrets to the altered virus and placed unexposed ferrets in cages nearby. All 40 ferrets died. Scientists use ferrets because they have a respiratory system much like humans, which is why the researchers believe the consequences of an airborne bird flu would be just as deadly for humans.

No visitors, however, are allowed in the high secret lab at Erasmus Medical Centre where the actual experiment took place. He told ABC News that with U.S. and Dutch expertise, Erasmus spent eight years and millions of dollars building one of the most secure lab facilities in the world just for studying H5N1. They call it a BSL3 Enhanced lab -- that's Bio-Safety Level 3. The vials of enhanced bird flu are kept in a bank vault inside the lab. The lab is designed to keep the deadly virus in and intruders out.

The researchers who engineered this super-virus insist they are far from being "mad scientists" as some have suggested. They are public health specialists.

The man in charge, Fouchier is a tall, lanky molecular biologist who began his career studying HIV in Philadelphia, but switched to bird flu when the mysterious virus first surfaced in 1997.

"What scares me is that this can happen so easily," he says, "it's scary that it might actually happen in the field."

And that's the point behind research that on the surface seems insane to some. Fouchier says what he did in the lab was mutate a few genes. That happens regularly in nature.

Fouchier insists the dangerous part of this virus isn't what he has created in the lab, it is what can happen if nature creates something similar. He says this should be a wakeup call for public health authorities around the world.

In the history of epidemics and pandemics nothing has been as lethal as the bird flu Fouchier has created. The most deadly epidemic of the last century was the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918. Virtually everyone in the world was infected. It is estimated that between 50 and 100 million people died -- conservatively that means it killed 3 percent of those infected. In a globalized world of air travel and mass transit, the prospect of an airborne bird flu with a 60 percent death rate is terrifying.

At its peak in 2006 bird flu was found in 63 countries, most of them in Asia. The Bush Administration was so concerned about the potential threat to humans from an airborne mutation that it contracted labs in the U.S. and overseas to see if such a human-to-human form really could evolve. The Dutch scientists were the first to prove it is possible. A lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has independently created a similar form of the lethal virus.

Since it peaked six years ago, H5N1 bird flu has been eradicated in many countries, but it remains endemic in Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia and Vietnam. Fouchier says one of the main reasons the U.S. and other Western governments were eager to see if the super-virus could be created was to push the countries where bird flu still exists to take the threat seriously.

"The urgency to eradicate bird flu in poultry markets [in those countries] was not very high," says Fouchier, "With these experiments we tell these countries please eradicate this virus very aggressively to prevent a pandemic."

"My first reaction was 'Oh, my God, why did they do this?'" says Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations. "Second reaction was, 'Oh dear, it works!' Meaning that nature could do the same thing -- that they had proven how dangerous the virus could be. And then my final reaction was, 'We have no capacity to control this kind of work. Our treaty systems our policy systems, will not do the job.'"

Garrett wonders whether the science can be justified. "We have a whole legacy now of labs doing experiments that in the wrong hands could be very, very dangerous. I'm not real comfortable with having this virus exist -- anywhere."

But when ABC News surveyed virologists in the United State for their opinions on the value of such seemingly toxic science the overwhelming response was that Fouchier's work is a valuable contribution to public health around the world.

"I think it's a very good idea," says Dr. William Schaffner, Chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. "We need to know more about how it is that influenza viruses that start out often in birds can transfer their capacity to make illness in humans and that essential research is going on in Rotterdam."

Schaffner says if affected countries do not move to eradicate bird flu and public health officials are not prepared for the appearance of a highly lethal airborne strain of the bird flu virus, the consequences could be horrifying. "If we were to have a pandemic caused by this virus in nature, then we are talking about millions of people being ill around the world, hospitals overflowing with sick people, funeral homes not being able to keep up with the deaths. So we need as much scientific information as possible to avert that."

Fouchier is scheduled to publish his findings in the journal Science. He has agreed to omit key details from the paper so that anyone thinking of replicating the virus will not have access to his blueprint. But he notes, the flu virus is hardly an effective form of bioterrorism. What he did is highly technical, requiring skills and equipment that are not widely available. He says nature produces much more accessible biological menaces on its own, although he is quick say he will not name them.

His bigger concern is that the outcry over his research will shut down an important branch of public health research -- not just for 60 days, but for good.

"If politics were to shut down this type of research then what we should do is lie in the sun until the next pandemic hits and kills us," he says. "That, I think, is not the attitude we should follow. Unless that is what we want we have to do this type of research. Otherwise we will be overwhelmed by Mother Nature terrorizing us in the future."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec202011

US Blocks Publication of Research on Highly Contagious Bird Flu Strain

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ROTTERDAM, Netherlands) -- Researchers in the Netherlands have created a mutated, highly contagious form of the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain that some fear could kill millions if it were unleashed on the general public. The U.S. government worries that publishing the methodology behind the strain's creation could heighten its potential for use as a weapon of biological warfare.

Virologist Ron Fouchier, who carried out his research at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, said in a statement that he hoped his research would assist in developing better vaccines and treatments for influenza in the future. Fouchier did his research on ferrets, whose immune response to influenza is similar to that of humans.

"We know which mutation to watch for in the case of an outbreak, and we can then stop the outbreak before it is too late," Fouchier said in a statement on the medical center's website. "Furthermore, the finding will help in the timely development of vaccinations and medication."

The study results were to be published in the U.S. journal Science, but the National Science Advisory Board, an independent committee that advises the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies, reviewed it Tuesday and warned that bioterrorists could potentially misuse the published research "for harmful purposes."

Fouchier declined to comment beyond his online statements, and the Erasmus Medical Center press office referred reporters to the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity's statement until further decisions had been made regarding publication of the research.

The National Institutes of Health, which funded the research, said Fouchier and his team would make changes to the manuscript before it was published in scientific journals.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec162011

NIH Limits Chimp Research

Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte(WASHINGTON) -- The National Institutes of Health will curb its use of chimpanzees in medical and behavioral research, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins announced Thursday.

Collins said in a news conference that the agency would temporarily bar all new research projects using chimpanzees, and that all current projects involving the primates would be evaluated.

 The announcement came after an Institute of Medicine  report issued on Thursday that called for strict limits on the use of chimpanzees  – the closest genetic relatives to humans — in medical and behavioral research.

In its report, the IOM said experiments on chimpanzees had not advanced research enough to justify their continued use in invasive experiments.

“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,” Jeffrey Kahn, chairman of the IOM committee,  said in a news release. ”We found very few cases that satisfy these criteria.”

Of the nearly 1,000 chimpanzees currently housed in U.S. research facilities, the NIH owns 612 of them. Collins said many of those animals are not involved in research currently.  

The NIH will begin reviewing the 37 federally funded projects that involve chimpanzees. Collins estimated that 50 percent of the projects will not meet the IOM’s criteria and will be phased out or ended immediately.

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 and animal rights activists 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 U.S. is one of only two countries that conduct invasive research on chimpanzees; the other is Gabon in central Africa.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio