Last month saw the news the NIH is retiring most of its chimpanzees used for research. The NIH will retain up to 50 chimpanzees for future research, but will retire more than 150.
“Americans have benefitted greatly from the chimpanzees’ service to biomedical research, but new scientific methods and technologies have rendered their use in research largely unnecessary,” said Dr Francis Collins, NIH Director. “Their likeness to humans has made them uniquely valuable for certain types of research, but also demands greater justification for their use. After extensive consideration with the expert guidance of many, I am confident that greatly reducing their use in biomedical research is scientifically sound and the right thing to do.”
While there has long been a call to reduce the number of animals in experiments, as reflected in the 3Rs principle of reduction, refinement and replacement, scientists have not entirely managed to dispose of in-vivo models for a variety of reasons. However, with the advantages in genomics and bioinformatics over the past decade, perhaps we have seen the beginning of the end for animal experimentation.
As the power of bioinformatics grows we can now model complex biological interactions in silico, reducing the need for costly experimentation involving animals. While we may never entirely replace it, our increasing knowledge and refinement of bioinformatics may be able to play a significant role in reducing the need for animals in research.