Oregon National Primate Research Center
|Motto||Better Health Through Scientific Discovery|
|Research type||Biomedical on nonhuman primates|
|Director||Nancy L. Haigwood|
|Location||Hillsboro, Oregon, USA
|Campus||350 acres (1.4 km2)|
|Operating agency||Oregon Health & Science University|
The Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) is one of eight federally funded National Primate Research Centers in the United States and has been affiliated with Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) since 1998. The center is located on 350 acres (1.4 km2) of land west of Portland, Oregon, in Hillsboro. Originally known as the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center (ORPRC), it was the first of the original seven primate centers established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The research center is administered and funded by the National Center for Research Resources, receiving $11 million in federal grants annually.
The center maintains a colony of 4,200 non-human primates (consisting of rhesus monkeys, Japanese macaques, vervets, baboons and cynomolgus macaques), cared for by 12 veterinarians and 100 full-time technicians. Living conditions at the facility are inspected bi-annually by the USDA in unannounced visits. Animal rights groups, such as In Defense of Animals and PETA, have stridently criticized what they characterize as cruel conditions there.
The primates are used in pure and applied biomedical research into fertility control, early embryo development, obesity, brain development and degeneration, and newly emerging viruses, especially AIDS-related agents. Research projects at the facility have produced some notable findings, such as the first successful cloning of primate embryos and extraction of stem cells, which was named the number one scientific achievement of 2007 by Time.
Construction of the facility began in 1961 after a $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. It was built on 240 acres (0.97 km2) in Washington County and opened in 1962. In 1970, the Oregon location became the first of the regional centers to build and use outdoor breeding facilities. By 1976 the campus housed 18 different species and 2,100 total animals while employing 225 people.
In 1988, the Center adds the Cooley Center for Cell and Molecular Biology to the campus, followed by the Animal Services Building in 1992. OHSU takes over in 1998 when the center is merged into the university. In 2002, the Center is renamed from the Oregon Regional Primate Center to the current name after the NIH changes the designation of all the primate research centers.
Animal care oversight
The center receives unannounced bi-annual inspections by the United States Department of Agriculture. It has been accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International since 1975. As required by the Animal Welfare Act, the center also maintains an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee; each IACUC must consist of at least one veterinarian with training in laboratory animal science and expertise in the species under consideration, at least one practicing research scientist, and at least one person not affiliated with the institution to represent community interests in proper care and use of animals.
Scientists at the Oregon National Primate Research Center have published several research projects which have a made significant impact on health sciences.
- Cloning and embryonic stem cells
In 2007, ONPRC scientists were the first to utilize cloning to reproduce primate embryos, and then extract embryonic stem cells — a procedure only previously performed in rodents, and which garnered expectations of being reproduced in humans. This breakthrough was named the number one scientific achievement of the year by Time magazine. In 2011, the center cloned chimeric monkeys using stem cells from six different monkeys, also a first.
- Multiple sclerosis
Researchers have identified factors that prevent the repair of brain damage caused by multiple sclerosis, complications of premature birth, and other diseases; as well as a key gene that impacts the timing of puberty and can shorten the time span for reproduction.
Recent publications have suggested that a component of the immune system damaged by AIDS might be replaceable, and have indicated a way to detect intra-amniotic infections in non-human primates, which may result in the development of a test for infections that cause premature birth in humans.
Findings in the area of obesity research include the role of the hormone leptin in causing/preventing obesity, how leptin resistance occurs and can be reversed, how a high-fat diet during pregnancy affects the foetus, how the natural hormone PYY can cause limited weight loss, and how reduced caloric intake may slow aging and weakening of the immune system.
Investigation by animal rights groups
Animal rights groups have conducted two undercover investigations into living conditions for the primates at the center. In 2000, Matt Rossell, an animal rights activist, posed as a laboratory technician, then released video footage taken from inside the center. He accused the facility of violating federal laws and ignoring signs of distress among the rhesus monkeys housed there. Jane Goodall, the primatologist, described the video as showing:
a baby monkey rolling up into a ball and sucking his penis, an infant monkey with [the disease] Shigella crawling about in his own filth, an adult rhesus who was so crazy that he had bitten his arms, bitten off almost all the flesh, an individual capuchin who had been used in drug research sitting with staring eyes, clearly in the last stages of depression, a monkey strapped down and submitted to a horribly painful electro ejaculation process with electrodes strapped on his penis, just to get a semen sample ...
The center described the allegations as "a combination of misinformation and misleading images." After an investigation, the USDA cleared the ONPRC of any wrongdoing, saying "the charges were a combination of misinformation and misleading images."
Goodall insists that the images could not have been faked, and that the monkeys were being "tortured." She told Matt Rossell: "There's absolutely no question that when non-human primates are put into the tiny, barren, sterile cages that are typical of almost all medical research facilities - such as those at the Oregon Regional Primate Center - they suffer most terribly. They suffer from boredom. They suffer terribly from being kept in isolation from others of their kind because monkeys and apes are extremely social, and they suffer from depression. The same kind of clinical symptoms that a depressed human child shows are seen in many instances in monkeys and chimpanzees kept in these inhumane and shocking conditions ... When I first saw the video, I was shocked, I was horrified, and I was very, very angry."
A second, four-month, undercover investigation was conducted in 2007 by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Ingrid Newkirk, PETA's president, said the footage showed the primates living in "miserable conditions." A spokesman for the center said the behavior of the monkeys seen in the footage was attributable to the investigator creating an "unfamiliar environment" for them.
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- USDA Finishes Report on Oregon Regional Primate Research Center, Concludes allegations are unfounded. OHSU News Release, January 12, 2001
- Savickas, Daniel. PETA files complaint against Oregon National Primate Research Center, Portland Tribune, November 13, 2008.
- Video of 2007 PETA undercover investigation at Oregon National Primate Research Center, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.