Abstract # 136:

Scheduled for Friday, June 22, 2007 05:00 PM-07:00 PM: Session 14 (South Main Hall) Poster Presentation

The Great Ape Aging Project (GAAP): Ten Years of Progress and Plans for New Directions

J. M. Erwin1,2, P. Hof3, C. Sherwood4, D. Perl3, S. Atsalis5, S. Margulis5, J. Robertson2 and K. Arbenz-Smith6
1Foundation for Comparative and Conservation Biology, Needmore, PA 17238, USA, 2VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, 3Mount Sinai School of Medicine, 4George Washington University, 5Lincoln Park Zoological Garden, Chicago, 6GAAP-E
     More than ten years ago it became clear that increasing numbers of captive apes were living into the fifth decade of life and beyond, and that the need for well-informed geriatric care for apes was increasing. This presented us with an ethical obligation and a remarkable opportunity to learn more from apes through monitoring health and behavior to benefit them, while increasing knowledge and understanding of aging. We developed a collaborative project that included more than 25 zoological and research institutions, and nearly all the great apes in the U.S. >40years of age. Behavioral observations, cognitive assessments, plus detailed post-mortem neurobiological studies of brain tissues were included. More than 110 great ape brains were collected and archived, and many were also MRI scanned. Some remarkable neuroanatomical discoveries ensued, but stereological counts did not reveal age-related neuronal attrition as is typical of humans. Beta-amyloid plaques were present, but the neurofibrillary tangles that are diagnostic in Alzheimer's disease have not yet been found in any ape. While our work progressed, other investigators conducted landmark studies of reproductive senescence in gorillas, including some involved in the GAAP. These lines of research are now being integrated, and are expected to encourage broader and more productive participation. We are initiating collaboration with European colleagues and institutions to develop GAAP-E as a parallel project.