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Transparency is the way to improve the treatment of primates in scientific research

Scientists hope that initiatives to share data will benefit the animals closest to us and will make it possible to reduce the scope of experiments conducted on them

A macaque monkey in a facility for animal experiments. Source: Understanding Animal Research.
Macaque monkeys in a facility for animal experiments. source: Understanding Animal Research.

By Monique Brouillet, the article is published with the permission of Scientific American Israel and the Ort Israel network 16.04.2017

In 2016, the U.S. Congress called on the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to take ethical action and ordered them to reevaluate their ethical oversight of research inprimates which are conducted with government funding. Although, many in the scientific community believe thatExperiments in non-human primates are essential to the advancement of biomedical research (indeed, such studies have led to considerable progress in the fight against AIDS and neurological diseases such as Parkinson's), but the widespread opinion among researchers is that more can be done than has been done so far to give these animals a more humane treatment and conduct the research in a less wasteful manner. To this end, the NIH held a symposium in September 2016 and brought together renowned scientists and ethics experts toDiscussion of the future of research in primates. The participants agreed that in order to advance the issue there is a need todata sharing.

The researchers will be able to reduce the scope of experiments with primates if they first look at the data already obtained in previous experiments and use them to find answers to new questions, says David O'Connor, professor of pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. O'Connor handsomely demands and handsomely fulfills: in his laboratory he edits Research on the Zika virus in primates, and he publishes all research findings on the Internet immediately. The goal is to find ways to fight the virus in as short a time as possible without causing unnecessary suffering to the primates used for the experiment.

Allen Institute for Brain Research, based in Seattle, who uses Kofi Rhesus For the study of the molecular basis of brain development, he also publishes all the findings of his research tofree use in the global scientific community. According to O'Connor, it is appropriate that this practice of sharing information be more common, so that "researchers using this costly but essential resource can extract as much information as possible from as few animals as possible." However, he doubts the possibility of extensive information sharing in the scientific community, as this would require a change in the "normative behavior" of scientists. The culture of scientific secrecy is deeply rooted in the scientific community, where data is kept secret until it is published in a journal after peer review.

A step in the right direction, towards full transparency, would be the adoption of the accepted practice in human clinical trials, she says Christine Grady, an expert onBioethics at the NIH. American law requires online registration of most clinical trials and publication of trial findings, even in cases where a trial failed or did not lead to unequivocal results. This allows other researchers to learn from the experiments regardless of their results, and at the same time, opens an opening to protect primates from being used again for the same purpose.

Nancy Haigwood, who stands at the head Oregon National Center for Primate Research, she also says that data sharing is "the way to act in the future". The center she manages has 4,800 primates, including macaques, baboons and squirrel monkeys, which are used to study a variety of human diseases. She transfers the findings of the research conducted at the center to O'Connor's website. "I don't see any downside to that," Haigwood says. "We must share information immediately, faster than is customary today."

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