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Non-human primates in research and safety testing


Glossary over Non-human primates

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a degenerative brain syndrome characterized by a progressive decline in memory, thinking, comprehension, calculation, language, learning capacity and judgment sufficient to impair personal activities of daily living. (Source: WHO, Mental Health Facts and Figures )



A class of natural or man-made substances, such as penicillin, that kill or inhibit the growth of some micro-organisms. (Source: GreenFacts, based on CoRIS, Glossary  )



A protein produced by the body's immune system that recognizes and helps fight infections and other foreign substances in the body. (Source: Gift of a Lifetime Glossary  )


Antiviral drugs are used for treating viral infections. They do not kill the viruses but impede their development by suppressing their ability to multiply and reproduce. (Source: GreenFacts)



A usually chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways characterized by intermittent episodes of wheezing, coughing, and difficulty in breathing, sometimes caused by an allergy to inhaled substances. (Source: American Lung Association Appendix 4: Glossary  )

Avian influenza

Avian influenza, or "bird flu", is a contagious disease of animals caused by viruses that normally infect only birds and, less commonly, pigs. Avian influenza viruses are highly species-specific, but have, on rare occasions, crossed the species barrier to infect humans. (Source: WHO, Avian influenza frequently asked questions  )


Blood coagulation

Blood coagulation is the process by which liquid blood changes into semisolid blood clots. It helps preventing blood loss from damaged blood vessels. (Source: GreenFacts)



The dense, living tissue that makes up the skeleton of humans and vertebrate animals.

Mature bones are made up of three types of tissue: compact tissue (the hard outer portion of most bones); cancellous tissue (spongy tissue inside the bones that contains bone marrow, which makes blood cells); and subchondral tissue (smooth bone tissue of the joints).

Cancellous tissue, also known as cancellous bone, spongy bone or trabecular bone, is characterized by its spongy, porous, honeycomb-like structure and is typically found at the ends of long bones. Compact tissue is also known as hard bone, compact bone or compact cortical bone. (Source: GreenFacts)



Any one of a group of diseases that occur when cells in the body become abnormal and have the potential to spread and establish growth in nearby tissues and other parts of the body (malignancy). (Source: GreenFacts )



The basic subunit of any living organism; the simplest unit that can exist as an independent living system. There are many different types of cells in complex organisms such as humans, each with specific characteristics. (Source: GreenFacts)


Clinical trial

A clinical trial is a research study in human volunteers to answer specific health questions. (Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Basic Q&A on Clinical Trials )


Cystic fibrosis

Hereditary disease whose symptoms usually appear shortly after birth. They include faulty digestion, breathing difficulties and respiratory infections due to mucus accumulation, and excessive loss of salt in sweat.

In the past, cystic fibrosis was almost always fatal in childhood, but treatment is now so improved that patients commonly live to their 20s and beyond.

(Source: NIH office of science education Glossary  )


Depression is a mental condition affecting an individual’s mood.

It is characterized by a range of negative feelings such as sadness, loneliness, despair, low self-esteem and guilt.

A depressed person may lose interest in many aspects of life and no longer find pleasure in activities and relationships. (Source: GreenFacts)

DG Health and Consumers

"The Health and Consumers DG (formally known as Health and Consumer Protection DG) is one of 36 Directorates-General (DGs) and specialised services which make up the European Commission."

The mission statement of the Health and Consumers DG is: "to promote a better quality of life by ensuring a high level of protection of consumers' health, safety and economic interests as well as of public health"

"This overall goal is addressed through legislative and non-legislative actions in three inter-related policy areas: 1. Consumer policy (...), 2. Public Health (...), 3. Food safety, animal health, animal welfare and plant health (...)". (Source: DG Health and Consumers website  )


Diabetes is a disease that develops when the body is unable to produce or respond to insulin hormone in the normal way. (Source: GreenFacts)



The amount of a substance to which a person is exposed over some time period. Dose is a measurement of exposure. Dose is often expressed as milligram (amount) per kilogram (a measure of body weight) per day (a measure of time) when people eat or drink contaminated water, food, or soil. In general, the greater the dose, the greater the likelihood of an effect. An "exposure dose" is how much of a substance is encountered in the environment. An "absorbed dose" is the amount of a substance that actually got into the body through the eyes, skin, stomach, intestines, or lungs. (Source: ATSDR Glossary of Terms  )


An electrical plate, wire or rod used to make contact with a non-metallic part of a circuit.. (Source: GreenFacts)



A biological endpoint is a direct marker of disease progression - e.g. disease symptoms or death - used to describe a health effect (or a probability of that health effect) resulting from exposure to a chemical. (Source: GreenFacts)



Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes people to have recurring seizures. These happen when clusters of nerve cells in the brain undergo a sudden surge of electrical activity, resulting in strange sensations, emotions or behaviour. Epileptics may have violent muscle spasms or lose consciousness.

Epilepsy has many possible causes, including illness, brain injury and abnormal brain development. In many cases, the cause is unknown. There is no cure for epilepsy, but medicines can control seizures for most people. (Source: GreenFacts )


European Commission

"The European Commission (EC) embodies and upholds the general interest of the [European] Union and is the driving force in the Union's institutional system. Its four main roles are to propose legislation to Parliament and the Council, to administer and implement Community policies, to enforce Community law (jointly with the Court of Justice) and to negotiate international agreements, mainly those relating to trade and cooperation."

The Commission's staff is organised into 36 Directorates-General (DGs) and specialised services, such as the Environment DG and the Research DG. (Source: EC website  )


Main components of the human eye include:

The retina - Light-sensitive layer at the back of the eyeball onto which incoming light is focused. It contains cells that respond to colours, different shades of grey, and movement. These cells trigger nerve impulses that are carried by the optic nerve to the brain, where a visual image is formed.

The cornea - The dome-shaped, transparent layer that forms the front of the eyeball. It bends light entering the eye into the lens, and hence helps to focus images onto the retina. It contains no blood vessels and is extremely sensitive to pain.

The lens - Transparent elastic structure situated behind the pupil of the eye that focuses incoming light onto the retina. Muscles in the eye can adjust the shape of the lens and make it more flattened to focus on distant objects, or make it more rounded to focus on near objects.

The vitreous humour - The transparent jelly-like substance that fills the eyeball between the lens and the retina. (Source: GreenFacts)



The functional and physical unit of heredity passed from parent to offspring. Genes are pieces of DNA, and most genes contain the information for making a specific protein. (Source: NHGRI Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms  )

Genetic Engineering

The technique of removing, modifying, or adding genes to a DNA molecule [of an organism] in order to change the information it contains. By changing this information, genetic engineering changes the type or amount of proteins an organism is capable of producing, thus enabling it to make new substances or perform new functions. (Source: US Department of Agriculture, Glossary of Biotechnology terms  )



Inflammation of the liver caused by viruses (viral hepatitis) or by chronic exposure to medicines or toxins such as alcohol.

Symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of the skin caused by the buildup of bile pigments in the body), fever, appetite loss and gastrointestinal upset. (Source: GreenFacts)


Huntington’s disease

Huntington's disease is a hereditary disorder of the central nervous system affecting both men and women. It usually develops in adulthood and can cause a very wide range of symptoms, including involuntary movements, difficulty in speech and swallowing, weight loss as well as emotional changes resulting in stubbornness, frustration, mood swings and depression (Source: GreenFacts, based on the UK Huntington’s disease association )

Immune system

The immune system is a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend the body against attacks by “foreign” invaders. (Source: NIAID Immune System   )


In vitro

In an artificial environment outside a living organism or body. For example, some toxicity testing is done on cell cultures or slices of tissue grown in the laboratory, rather than on a living animal. (Source: ATSDR Glossary of Terms  )


It is the growth of a parasite within the human body that causes illness. It can be a virus, a bacteria, a fungus or a protozoa. (Source: GreenFacts )


Influenza is a highly infectious viral disease that affects mainly the nose, throat, bronchi and, occasionally, lungs. It is a contagious illness characterized by fever, headaches, sore throat, body aches and congestion of the nose.

Influenza can also lead to pneumonia and death especially among children, the elderly, and those with serious medical condition.

The virus is transmitted easily from person to person via droplets and small particles produced when infected people cough or sneeze. Influenza tends to spread rapidly in seasonal epidemics. (Source: GreenFacts, based on FAO, Agricultural Department, Avien Influenza Glossary  )


Any animal lacking an internal skeleton such as a backbone or spinal column. Examples of invertebrates include worms, insects, oysters, and crabs.

The group includes all animals except fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. (Source: GreenFacts)


The liver is a big reddish-brow organ lying beneath the diaphragm on the right side. The liver is made up for a great part of liver cells which absorb nutrients and detoxify and remove harmful substances from the blood such as drugs and alcohol. The liver has many other vital functions and there is currently no way to compensate for the absence of liver.

Other liver functions include:

  • controlling levels of fats, amino acids and glucose in the blood
  • fighting infections in the body, particularly infections arising in the bowel.
  • manufacturing bile, a kind of digestive juice which aids in the digestion of fats
  • storing iron, certain vitamins and other essential chemicals
  • breaking down food and turning it into energy
  • manufacturing, breaking down and regulating numerous hormones
  • making enzymes and proteins which are responsible for most chemical reactions in the body, for example those involved in blood clotting and repair of damaged tissues.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A technique that uses a strong circular magnet in combination with pulses of radio waves to produce detailed images of internal organs. MRI is especially useful for imaging spine, joints, and inside bones and also soft tissue such as the brain.

Physicians can use MRI to see for instance the difference between normal and diseased brain tissue or which parts of the brain are active when you perform certain tasks or feel certain emotions and sensations.

MRI is one of several Nuclear Magnetic Resonance techniques. (Source: GreenFacts, based on Institute of Physics Inside story: MRI scans   )



Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected [female] mosquitoes. In the human body, the parasites multiply in the liver, and then infect red blood cells.

Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, and vomiting, and usually appear between 10 and 15 days after the mosquito bite. If not treated, malaria can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs. In many parts of the world, the parasites have developed resistance to a number of malaria medicines.

Key interventions to control malaria include: prompt and effective treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapies; use of insecticidal nets by people at risk; and indoor residual spraying with insecticide to control the vector mosquitoes. (Source: WHO Malaria  )

Method validation

Method validation is the process used to confirm that the analytical procedure employed for a specific test is suitable for its intended use. Results from method validation can be used to judge the quality, reliability and consistency of analytical results; it is an integral part of any good analytical practice. (Source: Ludwig Huber, Validation and Qualification in Analytical Laboratories  )



Microdosing is a technique where people are given extremely low quantities of a substance being tested in order to study how the substance behaves in the body. The doses are so low that they are unlikely to produce whole-body effects, but are high enough to allow the cellular response to be studied. (Source: GreenFacts)

Multiple sclerosis

A disorder of the central nervous system marked by weakness, numbness, a loss of muscle coordination, and problems with vision, speech, and bladder control. Multiple sclerosis is thought to be an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system destroys myelin. Myelin is a substance that contains both protein and fat (lipid), serving as a nerve insulator and helping in the transmission of nerve signals. (Source: NCI dictionary   )


Neurons are the nerve cells that make up the central nervous system.

This unique type of cell found in the brain that receives and conducts electric imulses, processing and transmitting information

A neuron consists of a cell body containing the nucleus, a single axon which sends messages by conveying electrical signals to other neurons, and a host of dendrites which deliver incoming signals. (Source: GreenFacts)



A small battery-operated electronic device that is surgically implanted under the skin and joined to the heart by wires, and that measures the pulse and corrects too fast or too slow heart rhythms. (Source: GreenFacts)



An epidemic that is geographically widespread; occurring throughout a region or even throughout the world. (Source: CoRIS Glossary  )



An animal or plant that lives in or on a host (another animal or plant); it obtains nourishment from the host without benefiting or killing the host. (Source: WordNet  )


Study of the biological, chemical and physical activities and processes that underlie the functioning of living organisms (cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems) and their parts. (Source: GreenFacts)

Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

A computer-based medical imaging technique for examining blood flow in the brain and in other body tissues making use of slightly radioactive tracer that emit positrons. The tracer which is linked to sugar molecules is injected into the subject’s blood and then it’s concentration is measured using the emitted positrons.As cells need sugar to function; active cells can be located by visualizing places where greater amounts of radioactive tracers are found. (Source: GreenFacts)


Pregnancy outcomes

Results of conception and ensuing pregnancy, such as sex ratio, birth weight, spontaneous abortion, congenital malformations, lower birth weight, preterm delivery or stillbirth. (Source: GreenFacts)


Biological order that comprises prosimans, monkeys, apes, among which humans. Compared to other mammals, they have large brains, as well as an increased reliance on vision that allows depth perception. Most primates live in tropical or subtropical regions of the Americas, Africa and Asia.

The Primates order has traditionally been divided into prosimians and simians.

  • Prosimians resemble the earliest primates and include the lemurs of Madagascar, lorisiforms and Aye-aye.
  • Simians including:
    • the New World monkeys of South and Central America, which include the capuchin, howler and squirrel monkeys;
    • the Old World Monkeys of Africa and southeastern Asia such as baboons and macaques;
    • the Apes among which lesser apes such as gibbons and great apes such as gorillas, chimpanzees and humans.



A group of small mammals with continuously-growing front teeth used for gnawing or nibbling. Examples of rodents are mice, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, beavers, and squirrels,

Historically, some rodent species have been considered as pests, because they eat stored crops and spread disease. (Source: GreenFacts)

Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks

The Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) is one of three independent non-food scientific committees that advise the European Commission on matters of consumer safety, public health and the environment.

The committee was set up in 2004 to provide the European Commission with scientific advice on health and environmental risks. It replaced the Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment (CSTEE).

SCHER addresses questions relating to examinations of the toxicity and ecotoxicity of chemicals, biochemicals and biological compound whose use may have harmful consequences for human health and the environment.

In particular, the Committee addresses questions related to new and existing chemicals, the restriction and marketing of dangerous substances, biocides, waste, environmental contaminants, plastic and other materials used for water pipe work (e.g. new organics substances), drinking water, indoor and ambient air quality. It addresses questions relating to human exposure to mixtures of chemicals, sensitisation and identification of endocrine disrupters.

The SCHER complies with the principles of independence, transparency and confidentiality. SCHER members therefore make a declaration of commitment to act in the public interest and a declaration of interests; requests for opinions, agendas, minutes and opinions are published; work and publications are done with regard to the need for commercial confidentiality.

For further information on the SCHER see:
SCHER website 

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

A newly identified acute respiratory syndrome caused by a new virus, the SARS coronavirus, which is believed to recently have crossed the species barrier from animals to humans.

Signs and symptoms are similar to flu at the outset but progress to pneumonia-like symptoms. Whilst most infected patients have recovered, the lack of specific treatment options has resulted in mortalities.

When SARS spreads, it is mostly through breathing in droplets transported through the air when someone with SARS coughs or sneezes. (Source: GreenFacts)



A highly contagious disease caused by a type of poxvirus; symptoms usually include fever, severe back pain and a blistery-like rash. [Smallpox is transmitted from person to person by infected aerosols and air droplets.]

(Source: Medical Center of the University of Chicago Glossary - Travel Medicine  )



A group of organisms that differ from all other groups of organisms and that are capable of breeding and producing fertile offspring. This is the smallest unit of classification for plants and animals. (Source: OceanLink Glossary of Common Terms and Definitions in Marine Biology  )


Stem cell

An undifferentiated type of body cell found in bone marrow, growing tissues, and embryonic tissue. The physical location of the stem cell, and the hormonal or growth influences that surround it, will determine what type of adult cell it will become. (Source: Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Glossary )



A stroke is the sudden and instant death of brain cells following an interruption of the blood supply to the brain.

Ischemic strokes generally occur when a blood clot blocks one of the blood vessels in the brain resulting in a temporary or permanent loss of oxygen supply to the brain. They are the most common form of stroke, accounting for 80% of strokes.

Haemorrhagic strokes account for 20% of strokes and are caused by the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, causing bleeding into the brain tissue and depriving some areas of oxygen.

Depending on the area of the brain affected, a stroke can cause the paralysis of the arms, legs and facial muscles, weakness, loss of vision and speech, unconsciousness, or death. (Source: GreenFacts)


Three Rs principle (in animal experimentation)

The Three Rs principle was launched in the early 1960s by two English biologists, Russel and Burch in their book “The Principle of Humane Experimental Technique”. The 3 Rs stand for Replacement, Reduction and Refinement.

Replacement alternatives refer to methods which avoid or replace the use of animals. This includes both absolute replacements (i.e. replacing animals by computer models) and relative replacements (i.e. replacing vertebrates, with animals having a lower potential for pain perception, such as some invertebrates).

Reduction alternatives refer to any strategy that will result in fewer animals being used to obtain sufficient data to answer the research question, or in maximizing the information obtained per animal and thus potentially limiting or avoiding the subsequent use of additional animals, without compromising animal welfare.

Refinement alternatives refer to the modification of husbandry or experimental procedures to minimize pain and distress, and to enhance the welfare of an animal used in science from the time it is born until its death. (Source: GreenFacts based on the Canadian Council on Animal Care, Three Rs introduction )


A group of cells joined to perform a set of functions. (Source: GreenFacts)


The capacity or property of a substance to cause adverse effects. (Source: GreenFacts)



A gene from one [organism] that has been incorporated into the genome of another organism.

Often refers to a gene that has been introduced into a multicellular organism. (Source: GreenFacts, based on FAO Glossary of biotechnology & genetic engineering )



Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium, most commonly Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It affects tissues in the human body, mainly the lungs (pulmonary tuberculosis). It causes small tumors that destroy the tissue.

Symptoms include cough, fatigue, weight loss, difficulty breathing, and fever. (Source: GreenFacts)



Method to improve a person’s immunity to a particular infectious disease. It involves the administration (oral intake or injection) of a vaccine, which is a weakened, dead or inactivated form of the pathogen responsible for the infection. This stimulates the immune system which produces antibodies (Source: GreenFacts)


A virus is a small organism which can infect other biological organisms.

Viruses can only reproduce by invading and taking over cells as they lack the cellular machinery for self reproduction.

They cause diseases in human beings, animals, plants and bacteria.

Examples of human diseases caused by viruses include the common cold, influenza, small pox, AIDS, and cold sores. (Source: GreenFacts)


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