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Attitudes toward monkey experiments are diversifying

IN2014 German Animal rights group called SOKO Tierschutz has planted a caretaker in the lab of Nikos Logothetis, a neuroscientist working at the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen. The infiltrator secretly filmed about 100 hours of laboratory work in six months, some of which was later broadcast on German television. This video shows a monkey with a metal plug transplanted into its skull. This is the port that researchers used to examine and study the brain. Some people vomit with a camera as a result of damage to blood vessels in the brain, apparently while the electrodes are being inserted.

The impact was immediate and lasting. About 800 people gathered outside Dr. Logothetis’ lab and demanded that they finish their work with monkeys. He was called a monster and a murderer. He and his family were threatened with murder. He faced accusations (rejected) for violating German animal welfare law. So in 2020 he announced that his lab would move to China. He is building a new research facility in Shanghai in collaboration with Mu-ming Poo of the Neuroscience Institute, one of China’s leading brain researchers responsible for the first cloning of genetically modified primates in 2018. doing. His Tübingen lab.

Studies on primates (mainly macaque monkeys) are becoming less and less popular in Europe and the United States.The· EU We promised to review the rules for the use of monkeys in the study every five years. In the future, I would like to end all animal experiments at unspecified points. US lawmakers are trying to pass humanitarian and existing alternatives to research and test forensic law. It will encourage scientists funded by the National Institute of Health, the country’s largest funder of biomedical research, to move away from dependence on animals. In both Europe and the United States, the number of monkeys under study has been flat or declining over the past five years.

Nevertheless, the amount of research on monkeys is increasing in East Asia, especially in China and Japan. Most of this has been driven by creating and expanding national primate research programs. Major institutions, such as the Shanghai Institute of Neuroscience, are focusing on breeding monkeys whose genomes have been modified to make physiology human-like and useful in the study of human diseases.

This type of genetic modification of research animals is common worldwide in biomedical research, but in most cases it is performed only in mice. US and European laboratories do not maintain genetically modified monkey strains, but some Chinese and Japanese laboratories do. Also, since the monkey brain is much more like the human brain than the mouse, transgenic monkeys may serve as a better model for studying neurological disorders than transgenic mice. Such experiments remain beyond what is inferior in many countries, but China and Japan are moving forward.

Activists argue that animals should not be used for research because they cannot give informed consent. Julia Baines working on science policy with people for the ethical treatment of animalsPETA)All animals, including primates, which are an animal rights group, are involved in biomedical research. In vitro Research (performed in Petri dishes and test tubes without relying on living things), computer simulation, and consensus-based human clinical trials.

Other researchers, such as researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Animal Care and Substitution, have suggested replacing animal testing where it seems possible and improving its use when it is not possible.

According to Stefan Treue, a neuroscientist working on monkeys at the University of Göttingen in Germany, there are only one in 2,000 experimental animals. But they are by far the most controversial. The social nature of their lives and their intellect-that’s why they are so useful in research-also help explain why such experiments are so awkward. Research that relies on them is at the same time more valuable and ethically problematic than research on other creatures. Neuroscientists in particular consider monkeys to be irreplaceable.

The brain is not well understood, so seeing its activity in living things is the only way to understand how it works, says Dr. Treue. Dissecting a dead brain gives only limited information. The brain really makes sense only when it is active. Few people volunteer to transplant electrodes into the brain. The consent of the person who did it would be doubtful.

Allyson Bennett, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also discusses monkey experiments, or untargeted studies, based on the value of pure science. She cites Vittorio Erspamer, a physiologist who worked in Italy in the early 1930s. He was interested in the nature of the chemicals found in the intestines of rabbits and frogs. While studying them, he discovered serotonin.

Didn’t see it coming

Today, drugs that regulate the body’s serotonin production help treat a variety of depressive disorders, improve the lives of millions, and prevent the deaths of thousands. However, Elspammers were not interested in depression or anxiety. It took decades for his discovery to become the basis for such treatment.

Although the list of medical advances based on animal experiments is long, Dr. Bennett points out something that would not have happened, especially without monkeys, a prosthesis that “talks” to the brain, known as the neuroprosthesis. The brains of non-human primates are so similar to ours that humans can use prostheses developed in monkeys. Although they are still rare, the prototype has restored the power to interact with the physical world to those who have lost their limb use.

China is becoming the global center of the monkey-using type of neuroscience. And stakes are getting higher and higher. Neurological disorders are the second leading cause of death in the world after heart disease. Symptoms such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia become more burdensome as the world becomes grayer. Technology companies, on the other hand, want to be able to build smarter software by understanding their brains. The general believes that advances in neuroscience can help them make better weapons.

The pandemic has strengthened China’s position. In February 2020, the Chinese government banned the export of all wildlife to curb the trade in wildlife, which is believed to be a vector of the spread of pathogens such as zoonotic diseases. SARSCo oV-2, the virus that causes covid-19. Research exceptions require government approval. Until recently, most of the monkeys used in the United States were imported from Chinese farms. However, export control has created a shortage (see chart).

“China, which holds primates, is in line with the Made in China 2025 policy, a long-term strategy announced in 2015,” said Kirk Reach of the European Animal Research Association. Understanding the brain was one of the key areas of scientific research on that policy. To achieve that, China needs more monkeys. Dr. Treue states that China has decided that research primates are a strategic resource. Exports are unlikely to return to their previous levels.

This puts Europe and America in bondage. Farms in China are highly regarded by the research community. Alternative suppliers from Vietnam and Cambodia operate in a manner similar to catching wild monkeys from their natural habitat. This is more traumatic for animals and less useful for research, as the health and age of these animals vary. Increasing harm and reducing the usefulness of research exacerbates the ethical dilemma of using monkeys.

Meanwhile, China’s neuroscience is expanding at a pace that even domestic laboratories lack, despite raising all farmed monkeys in their own country, Reach said. Researchers and activists in the United States and Europe are arguing over whether research on primates of any kind is allowed, but China and Japan are moving forward.

The Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai is the largest purchaser of the new brain probe Neuropixel. These are easier to install in the animal’s brain than the types currently in use. The lab purchased 3,000 probes when released for attachment to macaque monkeys. This would have allowed us to collect neurological data on an unprecedented scale. Probes also provide a path to less invasive research than older, larger electrodes, but the harm caused by putting the sensor into the brain is always significant.

Erica Sasaki of the Central Institute for Experimental Animals in Kawasaki, near Tokyo, has developed a line of genetically modified marmosets, a small monkey native to South America.She and her collaborators RIKEN The Brain Science Center, also in Japan, has created 3.D Marmoset brain atlas for mapping both higher cognitive functions specific to primates (including humans) and neurodegenerative diseases that destroy them.

Float away

Different attitudes of monkeys towards scientific research have three consequences. The United States and Europe may find that they are outsourcing the creation of knowledge that relies on research methods that they consider unethical. In the future, it may be necessary to choose whether to rely on the outcome of that knowledge, such as the treatment of neuropathy, or to reject it in principle.The· United NationsThe World Health Organization estimates that neuropathy affects at least 1 billion people worldwide. Treatment of such conditions, including some neuroscientific studies on monkeys, will become increasingly valuable.

Competition for supply chain management can intensify. The pandemic has revealed the importance of China’s supply chain for producing a variety of medical devices and consumables. As state-of-the-art neuroscience concentrates in China, new businesses and medical services will emerge in China. Many governments are already wary of connecting Chinese-made network equipment to telephone networks. They will probably be worried about bundling important Chinese-made probes into the brains of their citizens.

Examining the workings of the brain is the equivalent of exploring the farthest parts of the globe in the 21st century. The result is not only to teach humans their minds, but also to design artificial intelligence. This is a separate but connected area where competition between countries is fierce. If such scientific knowledge were produced primarily in China and Japan, it would be increasingly difficult to catch up, even if others decided to do so. ■■

This article was published in the international section of the print edition under the heading “Monkey Business”.

Attitudes toward monkey experiments are diversifying

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