The U.S. National Institutes of Health announced Thursday that it will sharply restrict the use of chimpanzees in future publicly funded invasive medical research and plans to review current projects involving chimps.

Chimpanzees' similarity with people "demands special consideration and respect," the NIH director, Dr. Francis Collins, said, while pointing to breakthroughs that came from studies using animals.

A review carried out by the Institute of Medicine at the NIH's request concluded that chimps are no longer needed for biomedical research.

Chimpanzees should only be used in projects deemed vital to improving human health and in which there is no other way to pursue the goal, the institute said this week.

If chimps are used, the institute said, they should be kept in conditions that are as close as possible to those of their natural habitat.

The Institute of Medicine panel that examined the issue raised no objections to observation of chimps' behavior and interaction in furtherance of prevention and treatment of human ailments.

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