The unique value of primate models in translational research. Nonhuman primate models of women's health: introduction and overview

Am J Primatol. 2009 Sep;71(9):715-21. doi: 10.1002/ajp.20720.


This special issue of AJP is focused on research using nonhuman primates as models to further the understanding of women's health. Nonhuman primates play a unique role in translational science by bridging the gap between basic and clinical investigations. The use of nonhuman primates in biomedical research challenges our resolve to treat all life as sacred. The scientific community has responded by developing ethical guidelines for the care and the use of primates and clarifying the responsibility of investigators to insure the physical and psychological well-being of nonhuman primates used in research. Preclinical investigations often involve the use of animal models. Rodent models have been the mainstay of biomedical science and have provided enormous insight into the workings of many mammalian systems that have proved applicable to human biological systems. Rodent models are dissimilar to primates in numerous ways, which may limit the generalizability to human biological systems. These limitations are much less likely in nonhuman primates and in Old World primates, in particular, Macaques are useful models for investigations involving the reproductive system, bioenergetics, obesity and diabetes, cardiovascular health, central nervous system function, cognitive and social behavior, the musculoskeletal system, and diseases of aging. This issue considers primate models of polycystic ovary syndrome; diet effects on glycemic control, breast and endometrium; estrogen, reproductive life stage and atherosclerosis; estrogen and diet effects on inflammation in atherogenesis; the neuroprotective effects of estrogen therapy; social stress and visceral obesity; and sex differences in the role of social status in atherogenesis. Unmet research needs in women's health include the use of diets in nonhuman primate studies that are similar to those consumed by human beings, primate models of natural menopause, dementia, hypertension, colon cancer, and frailty in old age, and dedicated colonies for the study of breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Introductory Journal Article

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Primates*
  • Women's Health*