The Marmoset Aging Center has established a specific-pathogen free, barrier-maintained colony of marmosets -- a unique primate model for the study of aging and age-related disease. The Center is the only facility in the world that maintains marmosets under barrier conditions, to promote excellent health and produce large numbers of aged animals for research.
Why use primates for aging research?
Primates are close relatives of humans, and therefore responses to drugs and other therapies are likely to be similar in humans and primates.
Primates demonstrate more complex mental processes than rodents; therefore, primates serve as a better research model to study the deterioration of complex mental processes characteristic of aging in humans.
The problem with rhesus monkeys.
Availability: Currently, there is a shortage of rhesus monkeys, mainly because India will no longer allow them to be exported. They also are in great demand for AIDS research. U.S. facilities already are breeding at maximum capacity, but cannot satisfy the demand. The shortage is expected to continue for at least the next 10 years.
Size: Rhesus monkeys weigh 8-12 kg., and they require more than 0.7 m3 of space per animal, making them very expensive to keep. In addition, rhesus monkeys are a threat to their handlers due to their size and strength.
Life Span: Rhesus monkeys live 25-40 years, making long-term aging studies impractical.
Disease: Rhesus monkeys carry diseases that can be fatal to their handlers.
The marmoset advantage.
Availability: Because marmosets are not threatened or endangered and are actually considered a "pest" species in some areas, they are readily available. Marmosets also have twins or triplets rather than single births like rhesus monkeys, so colonies can be enlarged relatively quickly.
Genetics: Marmosets are almost as closely related to humans as rhesus monkeys, making them an ideal model for aging studies.
Size: Marmosets are small. Weighing about 400 g., they are easy to handle and require comparatively little space, making a biomedical facility's cost of maintaining a marmoset approximately 1/10th to 1/20th of that of a rhesus monkey.
Life Span: Marmosets are short-lived compared to other primates, living only 6-15 years, so long-term aging studies are more feasible.
- Disease: Marmosets do not carry viruses that endanger their handlers.