Yerkes researchers will compare aging nonhuman primates to aging humans in an effort to develop more effective treatment options for aging-related diseases.
The National Institute of Aging has granted researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center more than $10 million during a five-year period to compare changes that occur in normal aging humans, humans with Alzheimer?s disease and humans with mild cognitive impairment to changes that occur in nonhuman primates, in particular chimpanzees and rhesus macaques.
The goal of this study is to identify ways to diagnose aging-related diseases earlier in order to increase the chances for effective treatment as well as to develop new treatments based on specific physiological changes.
According to lead researcher Jim Herndon, PhD, “As humans age, verbal knowledge remains stable while short-term memory, working memory, mental processing speed and long-term memory decrease. Using Alzheimer?s disease as the model, we are hopeful this study will help us determine how to detect the disease earlier in its course, thus increasing the chance for effective treatment. The study also may provide better understanding of specific physiological changes in humans that will be key in helping us develop the new treatments.”
This aging study will be the first to use chimpanzees. According to Herndon, chimpanzees may provide the important evolutionary link to answer why humans are the longest living species and to determine if this characteristic is due to special cognitive capacities. This will be the first examination of chimp cognition in correlation with other aspects of aging.
The Yerkes Research Center is uniquely positioned to conduct this study. “With our well-established colony of chimpanzees and onsite, state-of-the-art imaging facility, Yerkes is one of but a few research centers that can undertake such an extensive aging-related study,” said Stuart Zola, PhD, Yerkes director.