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Nepali Rhesus May be Used as an Alternate for HIV/AIDS Research

Scientists have found that Nepali rhesus is by all means a suitable alternate for the Indian-origin macaques, which is currently been used in biomedical research. // The Nepali species can be used in order to assuage the prevailing shortage of laboratory animals used for developing of vaccines for HIV/AIDS.

Writing in the cover story of the current issue of the American Journal of Primatology, researchers headed by Randall Kyes of the University of Washington report that the Nepali macaques are more closely related genetically to rhesus macaques from India than rhesus macaques of China.

This is important because Indian-origin animals have been used for more than half a century in biomedical and behavioral research. Rhesus macaques have contributed to the discovery of vaccines to prevent diseases such as polio and yellow fever, and represent one of the most widely used primate models for AIDS-related research. India, however, banned the export of all macaques in 1978, thus leading to the current shortage. Although China has been exporting captive-bred animals for sometime, scientists have noted a number of behavioral and physiological differences in disease progression between animals from the two countries, and the Indian-origin macaques are generally preferred in research on certain diseases.

Blood samples from 21 Nepali rhesus macaques living at a temple site in Kathmandu were obtained as part of a comprehensive health screening conducted at the temple. These samples were compared with existing samples collected from more than 300 Indian- and Chinese-origin rhesus macaques.

The researchers did sequence analyses of mitochondrial DNA and examined the distribution of certain types of alleles, or pairs of genes, for genetic variations distributed across 17 chromosomes. They also looked for the presence of other alleles that are known to influence immunity and the rate of disease progression in the animals, including one t
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