A major focus of SNPRC’s efforts since our inception in 1999 has been investigating the genetic basis of human disease. Nonhuman primates are outstanding models for studying the genetics of disease because they are so similar to humans in their biochemistry, physiology, anatomy and behavior.
The use of nonhuman primates as animal models for these genetic processes is widely recognized and continues to grow as researchers in many areas of biomedical research focus greater attention on the genetic basis of disease susceptibility and/or rates of progression. This is one reason why the National Human Genome Research Institute has already approved the complete whole genome DNA sequencing of nine species of nonhuman primates (chimpanzee, rhesus macaque, marmoset, baboon, squirrel monkey, cynomolgus macaque, tarsier, mouse lemur and galago), and is considering others.
Our primary research centers on the genetic basis of complex human diseases such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, psychiatric disorders and susceptibility to infectious diseases (e.g., Chagas disease, malaria, and other parasitic diseases). Our faculty members have long appreciated the value of conducting parallel studies in humans and nonhuman primates. As a result, several faculty members who are not Core Scientists within the SNPRC are nevertheless contributing to active programs involving the genetic analysis of nonhuman primate models.
This commitment to primate studies extends back to the origin of the Texas Biomed Department of Genetics in the early 1980s. From the beginning, the faculty in the department was committed to what today is called “translational research.” We designed a number of projects in diverse fields, especially several projects relating to cardiovascular disease, to collect and analyze similar or identical data in human populations and the SNPRC baboons. More recently, faculty members have engaged in parallel studies of bone biology and risk factors for osteoporosis in both humans and baboons.