The U.S. Department of Agriculture is again investigating animal research at the University of Washington, but officials there say the procedure in question is no longer being used.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture is conducting an investigation into animal research at the University of Washington, the second such investigation in recent years.

The department, which is charged with overseeing the welfare of animals used in research, won’t comment on an ongoing investigation. But UW officials say the research procedure in question is no longer being used.

In recent months, USDA officials raised concerns about skull implants in nonhuman primates. According to a July inspection report posted on USDA’s website, three animals “had significant health issues” after the surgical procedures and were euthanized.

Investigations are opened if a facility is out of compliance with the federal law that governs animal research, and if the noncompliance “is particularly grievous or a facility is in repeated noncompliance,” Tanya Espinosa, a public-affairs specialist for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, wrote in an email.

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Investigations can lead to official letters of warning or to monetary penalties. The UW received an official USDA warning in 2014. Most of its nonhuman primates are macaque monkeys.

UW spokeswoman Tina Mankowski said in an email that the USDA has asked the UW Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee to gather more detail about devices the UW has used to record brain activity in nonhuman primates.

“We’re studying the transmission of electrical impulses from the brain through the spinal cord — this is a long-standing UW research project that has application to individuals who have suffered spinal cord injuries,” Mankowski wrote.

She said it’s “a bit unclear” why the USDA has focused on the equipment involved because the project has been reviewed two other times by the same USDA reviewer, who had no concerns earlier.

That particular technique of gathering information about electrical impulses is no longer being used, she said.

The UW is building a $124 million underground facility for animals used in research on Northeast Pacific Street, near Foege Hall, to replace and consolidate its outdated lab facilities, which are located around campus. Animal-rights activists have conducted a series of protests locally and around the world, and have called on the UW to shut down the project and end the use of animals in research.

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