News copy from
Release Date: Sunday AM's - March 5, 1978 March 3, 1978
Subject: First case of Cystic Fibrosis
Discovered in Nonhuman
Scientists at the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center
of Emory University have discovered
Cystic fibrosis in a young rhesus monkey at autopsy--the
first nonhuman case of this disease known to medical science.
"This appears to be the first animal model of cystic fibrosis,
and we're excited about its implications," said Drs. and Harold McClure, veterinary
pathologists at the Yerkes Center.
Since cystic fibrosis is thought to be a genetic disease,
there is a possibility that the parents or relatives of the affected monkey
can have additional offspring with cystic fibrosis.
An animal model of cystic fibrosis will permit investigators
to learn a great deal about the basic causes of the disease and how it might
be treated, the Yerkes scientists explained. At present, the basic defect of
the disease is not known.
Cystic Fibrosis is a disease of children, adolescents,
and young adults, which is characterized by abnormal mucus secretions and fibrous
scarring in various organs such as the pancreas, liver, lungs, and reproductive
and digestive systems. Many of its victims die in early life of complications
such as malabsorption and pneumonia.
More than 25,000 white people in the United States have
the disease, but a much larger number--five percent of the white population--are
thought to be carriers of the recessive gene of cystic fibrosis. It is rarely
seen in the black population or in people of Asiatic origin.
The discovery came as Dr. , assistant veterinary pathologist
at the Yerkes Center, was performing a routine autopsy on a six-month old male
rhesus monkey that had died of unknown causes. He noticed pancreatic disease
and bronchial mucus production; evaluation of the tissue later under the microscope
revealed "a classic textbook case" of cystic fibrosis as pictured in human medical
literature, the Yerkes scientist said.
Studies of tissue from other organs confirmed that the
monkey was indeed a victim of cystic fibrosis, Dr. said. Dr. 's diagnosis was
confirmed by Dr. Victor Nassar, an Emory pediatric pathologist at Atlanta's
Grady Memorial Hospital and by Dr. John Easterly, pathologist at the Chicago
Lying-In Hospital, who is a national authority on cystic fibrosis.
A report on the discovery was made yesterday (Saturday,
March 4, 1978) at a Primate Pathology Workshop held in Atlanta. Drs. and McClure
gave the presentation at Emory's Glenn Memorial Building near Grady Hospital.
They said the affected animal was bred in a colony of rhesus
monkeys supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for studies
pertaining to the U.S. space program.
"We have here a classic example of serendipity," said Drs.
and McClure. "These animals were being studied for the space program but are
now also providing us clues in a different area altogether."
Dr. Nelly Golarz de Bourne, histologist at the Yerkes Center,
is conducting NASA studies on the monkey colony in collaboration with Dr. Geoffrey
H. Bourne, Yerkes Center director. Their records go back at least 10 years,
and include information pertaining to breeding and diseases of the animals.
"We can now go back and look at slides of animals that died to see whether any
of them might have had any of the more subtle changes of cystic fibrosis," Dr.
"This discovery has made us aware that these animals cam
have the disease, so we can make an all-out search for new cases, both in the
past and future. If we can breed a supply of animals with cystic fibrosis, using
the parents, siblings, or other relatives of the one that had the disease, this
will be a great boon to researchers."
Up to now, research efforts toward understanding and curing
cystic fibrosis have been severely hampered by lack of an animal model.
"We are very fortunate that the rhesus monkey is the animal
model that was found by Dr. , because more is known about this animal than about
any other nonhuman primate," Dr. McClure said. "They are also available for
research in fairly large quantities."
Dr. James A. Peters, medical director of the Cystic Fibrosis
Foundation, which has its headquarters in Atlanta, commented: "We eagerly await
the results of Dr. 's studies because of the importance of an animal model to
both basic and clinical research on cystic fibrosis."
He noted that Dr. will participate in a May 25-26 workshop
in Bethesda, MD., on the animal model for the study of cystic fibrosis, which
will be jointly sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism,
and Digestive Disease and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Death may be manslaughter, but it wasn't murder
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