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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 12:13 GMT
Primate research 'changed his life'
The Weatherall report said there was a "strong scientific case" for non-human primate research.

The Gardners are one family for whom such research has made a big difference.

Sean and Jeanette Gardner (BBC)
Sean Gardner suffers from dystonia

Thirteen-year old Sean Gardner from Scotland suffers from dystonia.

The rare movement disorder, which causes muscles to spasm and the body to twist into often painful postures, left Sean virtually immobile.

His mother Jeanette told the BBC: "He couldn't feed himself, his head was twisted, his arms and legs were twisted, his speech was all gone."

He couldn't even use an electric wheelchair, she said.

But an operation performed earlier this year has changed everything for the Gardner family.

In March, Sean travelled to the Oxford Radcliffe infirmary for surgery carried out by neuroscientist Professor Tipu Aziz.

Professor Aziz has been working on the brain for decades and is a strong proponent of primate research, having used these animals to develop treatments for neurological diseases such as Parkinson's.

Using a technique developed using primates, Professor Aziz drilled two tiny holes into Sean's head and inserted electrodes.

These electrical currents, which can be turned on and off, stimulate the brain and can alleviate symptoms.

A change of view

Several months on, the surgery had made a big different to Sean.

His mother said: "It has been really hard for Sean, but the results have been amazing and it has been well worth it.

"His posture has straightened up, he is able to play a computer, his speech has got a lot better and he can stand up with some help.

"He has just absolutely completely changed."

Before the operation, both Sean and his mother were uncertain about experiments using primates, but his progress has changed their minds.

Ms Gardner said she still disagreed with using monkeys to test cosmetics, but when it came to helping people suffering from diseases, such as dystonia, she was strongly in favour using primates.

"Sean wouldn't be sitting here the way he is today, he wouldn't have done all the things he had done if it wasn't for these experiments."

UK experts back primate research
12 Dec 06 |  Science/Nature

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