The International Primate Heart Project (IPHP): A global collaboration investigating cardiac phsiology, anatomy and pathology
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a common cause of morbidity and mortality of captive great apes.
Underlying causes and predisposing factors are poorly understood. Understanding normal and abnormal cardiac phenotypes is essential for the early diagnosis and treatment of cardiac disease. However the generation of normal cardiac reference values for these species poses a major challenge.
Recently a group of UK veterinary surgeons, cardiac physiologists, cardiologists and pathologists have set up, in collaboration with the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) and the Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group (OVAG), the International Primate Heart Project (IPHP). The purpose of this group is to; design an appropriate assessment protocol to investigate CVD in great apes in European collections and African sanctuaries, establish normal reference ranges for cardiac structure and function in all great ape taxa, and to deliver CPD opportunities for veterinary teams caring for great apes.
Initial project findings have shown that non-human great apes show differences in ventricular anatomy, diastolic function and ECG morphology in comparison to humans. This indicates that the humans cannot be used as a model for cardiac investigations in other great apes, and that specific reference ranges are required to aid the diagnosis and management of captive great apes with cardiac disease.
The IPHP represents an effective interdisciplinary partnership resulting in evidence-based improvements in zoo and wild animal medicine, welfare and conservation. It is a model of proof that respectful and open collaboration yields rapid and helpful results, which collectively improve the health, welfare and conservation of great apes.