In her piece, Trull emphasizes the importance of utilizing non-human primates (NHP) which, while only comprising of less than one percent of the total research performed with animals, accounts for a sizeable impact on medical discovery. To back up this fact, the article references great strides in medical research, such as the vaccines for polio, mumps, measles, and hepatitis B, which owe their successes to NHP research. Yet with all of this evidence of the benefits of animal research, some critics posit that computer models are better suited for experiments than animals. Trull refutes this claim quickly with her example of a recent endeavor to model human brain activity with a computer. She writes, “In 2014, researchers in Japan attempted to simulate brain activity by using a supercomputer with over 700,000 processor cores. It took the computers 40 minutes of whirring to effectively replicate what the brain does in one second.” Neurological research would take much longer and may inhibit the development of lifesaving treatments with the use of a computer model alone. In addition, without animal models, particularly primates, researchers would have to test potentially unsafe medicines on humans, which is highly unethical and illegal.
Though in spite of the perceived controversy surrounding it, non-human primates remain a vital part of biomedical research. To read the op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, please click here, and please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and on social media.