The Pasadena Weekly‘s Michael Collins submitted a list of questions for Dr. Jack Bergman of McLean Hospital on February 16, 2010 regarding his NASA experiments on 18 squirrel monkeys, the subject of our “Space Monkey Business” cover story in the paper February 25. Bergman referred the questions, which follow, to the hospital’s director of media relations, Adriana Bobinchock, who replied to our questions with a statement dated February 18. That statement follows our inquiries.

Pasadena Weekly questions for Dr. Jack Bergman:

Dr. Bergman,

I am writing an article about your experiments with squirrel monkeys, NASA’s now-canceled Constellation initiative and the future of the space agency for the Pasadena Weekly and have a few questions for you that I hope you can answer:

1. With the as-yet approved 2011 NASA budget eliminating the Constellation initiative, will you still need to conduct your experiments with squirrel monkeys?

2. If not, are you disappointed? If yes, when will the experiments begin? When will they end?

3. How does injecting gamma radiation in the monkeys give you clinical insight into the effects of longterm cosmic radiation on humans in deep space?

4. Some animal rights groups claim that the information you seek can be obtained in other ways that don’t include experimenting on the monkeys, such as in experimenting on human tissue cultures. Are they correct? If not, what advantages do you have performing the experiments as planned?

5. These animal rights groups say the experiments are “inhumane” and cruel to the monkeys? How do you respond to that criticism?

6. What do you expect to happen to the monkeys, if anything at all? What do you hypothesize their lives will be like after the experiments conclude?

7. What are the contributions to science and America’s space program that these experiments could provide?

8. Could you tell us something about yourself? Could you provide us with any photos of yourself and/or you laboratory?

Adriana Bobinchock’s statement to the Pasadena Weekly:

BELMONT, MA-The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently awarded McLean Hospital a research grant to investigate the effects that space radiation may have on astronauts during future space explorations.

The initial phase of the study is proposed to take place at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory, located at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY, where up to 18 non-human primates (squirrel monkeys) will receive a one-time exposure of low levels of space radiation similar to what an astronaut would encounter on a Mars mission. The second phase of the study will be conducted at McLean Hospital, where the primates will be monitored for changes in behavior. All primates involved in this study will spend the remainder of their natural lives in a vivarium with full veterinary oversight.

McLean Hospital’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is responsible for oversight of all research involving animals. The IACUC follows Partners HealthCare policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals; it bases its programs of animal care and use on the National Research Council’s Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and has an Animal Welfare Assurance on file with the National Institutes of Health Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare. In addition, it is registered with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). All research laboratories at McLean are inspected regularly and comply with all institutional, state and federal guidelines.

For additional information about NASA research, please contact NASA.

Adriana Bobinchock
Director, Media Relations
McLean Hospital
115 Mill Street
Belmont, Ma 02478-9106