Saturday, December 8, 2012

I “heart” the Great Ape Heart Project

When you hear about the too-soon death of a gorilla or chimpanzee who had, by all appearances, seemed completely healthy, chances are they died of heart disease. They are so much like us – so of course they would share some of our health risks. On the other hand, they are different enough that we need to learn more about how to prevent, detect, and treat their heart problems.

Fortunately, one of the most important research efforts for great ape health is fully underway.

Gorillas at the National Zoo participate
in the Great Ape Heart Project
Based at Zoo Atlanta, the Great Ape Heart Project was established to investigate and understand cardiovascular disease in great apes. They are creating and maintaining a centralized database that can help veterinarians analyze cardiac data and coordinate cardiac-related research activities. Most importantly for the here and now, the Great Ape Heart Project is the central heart-related communications point for zoos, research facilities and sanctuaries where apes are housed. The data helps individual animals, even as the project establishes a database for future research. (A terrific web page explains how the gorillas at the National Zoo are participating in the project.)

Hayley Murphy, DVM, is leading the Great Ape Heart Project, which now involves more than 50 participants from over 30 institutions. It was organized by Zoo Atlanta, the Emerging Diseases Research Group of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, the UC Davis College of Veterinary Medicine, and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Be sure to “like” the Great Ape Heart Project Facebook page, so you can follow their work. It’s a project that should be near and dear to our hearts. 

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