Almost every major medical advance during the last century has been made possible through research in animals. Because of their close anatomical, physiological and behavioral similarity to humans, nonhuman primates provide an indispensable bridge between basic laboratory studies and human clinical use. Society is currently facing enormous medical challenges that include AIDS, cancer, drug addiction, neuropsychiatric illnesses, neurodegenerative disorders, and cardiovascular diseases for which nonhuman primates provide the best models and the best hope for improved treatment. Here are some examples of important medical accomplishments made possible by research with nonhuman primates at NEPRC.
- 1967 – Discovery of the carcinogenic virus herpesvirus saimiri.
- 1981 – First unambiguous evidence of addictive-like nicotine self-administration by nonhuman primates, supporting the 1988 Surgeon General’s Report on the Health Consequences of Smoking.
- 1984 – Isolation of type-D retroviruses as major causes of illness and death in macaques.
- 1985 – Discovery of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) and development of the first SIV macaque model of AIDS.
- 1985 – Discovery that infection with SIV results in acquired immunodeficiency and first unequivocal demonstration that AIDS is caused by a virus.
- 1989 – Discovery of the dopamine transporter as the principal pharmacological target for cocaine in the primate brain.
- 1992 – First demonstration of vaccine-induced sterile protection against a lentivirus, which remains the standard of protection against which candidate AIDS vaccines are judged.
- 1997 – Discovery of a nonhuman primate virus resembling human Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus.
- 1998 – Discovery of rapid depletion of CD4 + T cells in mucosal tissue during SIV infection, identifying gut-associated lymphoid tissue in AIDS pathogenesis.
- 1998 – Development of a brain imaging probe (altropane) for early detection of Parkinson’s disease.
- 1999 – Unambiguous evidence for a direct role of CD8 + T lymphocytes in AIDS virus replication, leading to a novel candidate AIDS vaccine.
- 2006 – Discovery of functional polymorphisms in the gene for the enzyme that regulates serotonin synthesis and associated stress.
- 2007 – Identification of previously unknown pathway for viral entry of hemorrhagic fever virus into cells.
- 2008 – Discovery of biological function of trace amine receptors in nonhuman primate brain.
- 2010 – Development of a novel vaccine strategy to expand cellular immune responses in nonhuman primates, leading to human clinical trials.
- 2010 – Discovery of cooperative circuits in the prefrontal cortex of the brain that drive cellular mechanisms underlying learning and memory functions.
- 2011 – Discovery of mechanisms of neural invasion by botulinum neurotoxins.