The Marmoset as a Model of Aging and Age-Related Diseases

Suzette D. Tardif, Keith G. Mansfield, Rama Ratnam, Corinna N. Ross, and Toni E. Ziegler

Suzette D. Tardif, PhD, is an associate professor at the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio, Texas. Keith G. Mansfield, DVM, is Associate Director for Resource and Collaborative Affairs and an associate professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, and Chair of the Division of Primate Resources at the New England National Primate Research Center in Southborough, Massachusetts. Rama Ratnam, PhD, is an assistant professor of Systems and Computational Neuroscience in the Department of Biology at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Corinna Ross, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies. Toni E. Ziegler, PhD, is a senior scientist at the Wisconsin Primate Research Center, University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Suzette D. Tardif, Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, 15355 Lambda Drive, STCBM Bldg 2.200.08, San Antonio, TX 78245 or email


The common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) is poised to become a standard nonhuman primate aging model. With an average lifespan of 5 to 7 years and a maximum lifespan of 16½ years, marmosets are the shortest-lived anthropoid primates. They display age-related changes in pathologies that mirror those seen in humans, such as cancer, amyloidosis, diabetes, and chronic renal disease. They also display predictable age-related differences in lean mass, calf circumference, circulating albumin, hemoglobin, and hematocrit. Features of spontaneous sensory and neurodegenerative change—for example, reduced neurogenesis, β-amyloid deposition in the cerebral cortex, loss of calbindin D28k binding, and evidence of presbycusis—appear between the ages of 7 and 10 years. Variation among colonies in the age at which neurodegenerative change occurs suggests the interesting possibility that marmosets could be specifically managed to produce earlier versus later occurrence of degenerative conditions associated with differing rates of damage accumulation. In addition to the established value of the marmoset as a model of age-related neurodegenerative change, this primate can serve as a model of the integrated effects of aging and obesity on metabolic dysfunction, as it displays evidence of such dysfunction associated with high body weight as early as 6 to 8 years of age.

Key Words: aging research; hearing loss; marmoset (Callithrix jacchus); neurodegeneration; nonhuman primate (NHP); obesity

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