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To Ape or Not To Ape? Bridging Missing Links in Medical Research

Raging controversies have always surrounded animal experimentation, but the simmering issue deals with the idea of using primates in medical research.// The reason for the yo-yoing on the issue of using primates in medical testing hovers around their extreme likeness with humans.

Primate testing has triggered controversies mainly due to two primary issues: whether the experiments on apes is really effective in making positive strides in the medical field and if it is ethical to use animals that are so close in resemblance to humans, for the purpose of medical testing. Scientific data shows the closeness in the DNA profile, 97.7 percent of the DNA in apes and humans is similar.

Rick Bogle, a keen animal rights champion, has always praised the advanced cognitive ability and sensitivity portrayed by apes. Apes have been known to possess the ability to communicate in sign language, at par with a three-or four-year-old human child. Showing empathy, poking fun and playing pranks, so similar to humans, has raised the concerns for their use in medical experiments.

Consequently, animal rights activists contend that all animals merit the same rights as humans, which does not exclude freedom from deliberate pain and discomfort. But researchers are quick to assert that their experiments on apes are ethically justified because it has benefited humans to a great extent.

However, scientists involved with research on primates contend that primate experiments are need of the hour to arrive at remedies for human diseases. Scientists opine that specific primate research has contributed in great measure towards protecting human health.

Having said that, it is also evident that after decades of experiments on primates, scientists have not made path breaking strides in certain human diseases like HIV or AIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, epilepsy, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, or cancer—which have been experimented threa
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