After the Institute of Medicine concluded today that most invasive experiments on chimpanzees aren't necessary, the National Institutes of Health said it would significantly cut back on use of the animal in its research. The NIH's decision isn't entirely unexpected; they asked the well-respected IOM to make recommendations last year, and The New York Times wrote last month that "decision to stop such research in the United States could come within a year." That's largely because scientific consensus has long been moving toward the conclusion that, in the words of the NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins today, "the emergence of non-chimpanzee models and technologies" makes it unneccesary. But don't get too excited there, you caged monkeys, the NIH isn't completely through with chimp-driven experiments. The NIH is reserving the right, as the Institute of Medicine's recommnedations allow, to keep using the animals provided:
1) That the knowledge gained must be necessary to advance the public’s health;
2) There must be no other research model by which the knowledge could be obtained, and the research cannot be ethically performed human on subjects; and
3) The animals used in the proposed research must be maintained either in ethologically appropriate physical and social environments (i.e., as would occur in their natural environment) or in natural habitats
But given the methods scientists have long been developing to work around chimpanzees as experiment subjects, there probably won't be many experiments that meet that criteria. Meanwhile, in what appears to be coincidence, media today also carried news of the death of Booie, the famed sign-languaging chimp, which would make this the most news-heavy day for experimented-upon chimpanzees since the announcement of a live-action Curious George film. Booie died at the age of 44. A martyr for the anti-smoking cause, we suppose. R.I.P. Booie, and sort of R.I.P. chimp-based research.