Since most biomedical research on human diseases cannot be conducted on humans for ethical reasons, animals are essential for understanding disease processes and for testing the safety and efficacy of therapies.
When studying human diseases, monkeys provide one of the best animal models. Humans and monkeys bear a close genetic relationship, reflected in many anatomical, behavioral, developmental, physiological, and reproductive similarities.
For example, rhesus monkeys, unlike other mammalian species, have a menstrual cycle and hormonal patterns comparable to humans, which means they are necessary to study issues related to fertility, pregnancy, and changes that occur with menopause. Monkeys are also susceptible to an immunodeficiency virus similar to HIV, making them ideal for the study of AIDS and new vaccines and drug treatments. Since monkeys in breeding colonies can live well past their typical lifespan in the wild, they also provide opportunities for aging research, including studies on Alzheimer’s disease. Nonhuman primates have made significant contributions to the study of hepatitis, malaria, respiratory viral diseases, Parkinson’s disease, stem cell transplantation, and gene therapy.
Researchers also study the family structure and behavior of monkeys living in outdoor corrals to learn more about the behavior of these primates in the wild, and how this knowledge can be applied to understanding human behavior. Students and other trainees from across the campus, such as those in anthropology, veterinary medicine and animal science, are able to carry out research projects at the Center under the guidance and mentorship of Core Scientists.
See Why Primates for more information.