The Associated Press
FILE - In this Jan. 31, 1961 file photo, Ham, the first higher primate launched into outer space, is comforted by an unidentified man on the deck of a rescue ship after the splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. Chimpanzees should hardly ever be used for medical research, a prestigious scientific group told the government Thursday _ advice that means days in the laboratory may be numbered for humans' closest relatives. The Institute of Medicine stopped short of recommending the outright ban that animal rights activists had pushed. Instead, it urged strict limits that would make invasive experiments with chimps essentially a last resort, saying today's more advanced research tools mean the primates' use only rarely will be necessary enough to outweigh the moral costs. (AP Photo, File)

WASHINGTON — The government says it will accept strict new limits on using chimpanzees in medical research, after a prestigious scientific group said that experiments with humans' closest relative should be a last resort.

The National Institutes of Health agreed that the species deserves special consideration, and that science has advanced enough that chimps seldom would be needed to help develop new medicines.

NIH Director Francis Collins temporarily barred new research funding involving chimps, and said a working group will review about 37 ongoing projects involving the animals to see if they should be phased out.

These apes' genetic similarity to people has long caused a quandary. It's what has made them so valuable to scientists for nearly a century, but at the same time raised ethical and emotional concerns.