Alzheimer’s Research with Primates: Speaking of Research in The Conversation

September 2, 2022

In a new article in The Conversation, three Speaking of Research committee members write about how primate research can advance understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease. The topic is an important one, affecting many people. 

The authors write: “As of 2022, an estimated 6.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, an illness that robs people of their memories, independence and personality, causing suffering to both patients and their families. That number may double by 2060. The U.S. has made considerable investments in Alzheimer’s research, having allocated US$3.5 billion in federal funding this year.” 

Photo credit: S. Baker

Why animal models?

The article addresses the necessity of animal models in advancing animal research, and particularly why the nonhuman primate model can fill gaps that the traditionally relied-upon mouse model cannot. The authors also explain why non-animal research alternatives can’t replace living animals.

“A critical aspect of understanding what goes awry in Alzheimer’s disease is the relationship between brain and behavior. Researchers rely heavily on animal models to do these types of studies because ethical and practical issues make them impossible to conduct in people.

In recent years, researchers have developed alternative methods to study Alzheimer’s, such as computer models and cell cultures. Although these options show promise for advancing Alzheimer’s research, they don’t supersede the need for animal models because of important limitations.

One is their inability to replicate the complexity of the human brain. The human brain has an estimated 86 billion neurons that perform highly complex computations. While computer models can simulate the workings of specific neural circuits, they are unable to fully capture these complex interactions and work best when used in concert with animal models.

Similarly, cell cultures and brain organoids – miniature brains derived from human stem cells – are unable to adequately mimic the aging process and all the ways the components of the human body interact with one another.

As a result of these limitations, researchers turn to animal models that better reflect human biology and disease processes.”

Interested in learning more? View the full article at:

Source: The Conversation

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