A major Parkinson's charity is being urged to stop experimenting on marmoset monkeys and implement humane animal-free methods instead.
According to animal rights group Animal Aid, Parkinson's UK is providing funding of more than £780,000 for work which will include testing a drug named NLX-112 on primates.
"The work will be in partnership with a drug company – Neurolixis – and with King’s College London, which has a colony of marmoset monkeys," says the group. "Parkinson's UK describes the work as including 'safety and efficacy testing in a marmoset model of Parkinson's."
While Animal Aid says there are 'no details of exactly what the monkeys will suffer', Parkinson's is usually modeled in marmosets by injecting them with a chemical called MPTP.
This causes debilitating, distressing effects and Parkinson-like symptoms, including paralysis and total loss (or extreme slowness) of movement, loss of vocalization, lack of muscle movement including eye rigidity, lack of coordination and uncontrollable body tremors.
Once these symptoms are present, a drug or some other intervention will typically be given to attempt to alleviate them. NLX-112 is described as being developed for L-DOPA–induced dyskinesia (LID) .
Turn away from animal tests
Jessamy Korotoga, Campaign manager for Animal Aid, said: "This drug has previously been tested in primates, cats and rodents and has also been given to human patients in trials to alleviate pain.
"The terrible effects of 'modeling' Parkinson's in primates are known, as are the differences between Parkinson's in humans and the ‘model’ in primates. We urge Parkinson's UK to turn away from unreliable animal research and to instead use cutting-edge, humane, non-animal methods."
Dr. Marius Maxwell, an Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard-trained neurosurgeon, has also criticised, the use of MPTP-poisoned monkeys as a 'model' for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) research, saying: "It is widely acknowledged that profound disparities (anatomical, physiological, neurochemical, pathological and temporal) exist between the MPTP non-human primate model and humans with idiopathic PD. Despite these paramount concerns of human reproducibility, hundreds of studies involving thousands of animals have followed with conflicting and non-predictive results."
Use of animals
Director of Research and Development at Parkinson's UK, Dr. Arthur Roach, told Plant Based News: "The use of animals in research has contributed to many breakthroughs in our understanding of Parkinson's and the discovery of current treatments.
"Since the 1970s, the lives of millions of people with Parkinson’s have been transformed by the drug levodopa. This would not have been developed without the insights gained from research involving animals as, unfortunately, there is currently no alternative method that can reproduce the complicated working of a human brain.
"Parkinson’s UK does not take the decision to fund this research lightly and, for this project alone, it has sought expert peer review twice to ensure that there is no suitable alternative to developing a safe and effective new treatment.
"Any research we fund that involves animals of any kind is carried out in line with strict Home Office regulations to ensure the animals are well treated, and we always subscribe to the ‘3 Rs’ policy – to reduce, refine and replace the use of animals in research wherever possible.
"This type of testing gives us the best possible understanding of all potential issues with a new drug, including safety, which is important in a decision to test a new medication in humans for the first time. It is also currently required by the authorities that govern the approval of new medicines. Without it, potential drugs cannot progress further into clinical trials or be made available to help people with Parkinson's."
?This story was updated on September 13 to include Dr. Roach's comments.