Mouse and Rat Research Leads to Compound that Might Treat Human Diabetes

Scientists at pharmaceutical company Hoffman-La Roche recently published the results of their research into a compound that boosts production of insulin while simultaneously reducing the release of glucose.

The compound, referred to as RO-28-1675, binds to the glucokinase enzyme. In rats, it boosted glucokinase activity thereby resulting in an increase in insulin production. The compound also increased glucose usage by the liver in both mice and rats, causing glucose levels in the animals to fall.

Hoffman-LaRoche researcher Joseph Grimsby was quoted by Scientific American as saying,

By turning on glucokinase, this novel compound improves insulin secretion by the pancreas and stimulates glucose usage by the liver, both of which are abnormal in diabetes.

If this RO-28-1675 has the same abilities in human beings, an oral version of it could someday replace insulin shots. Human clinical trials of the drug are, however, likely years away.


Drug shows promise as diabetes pill. Scientific American, July 21, 2003.

Researchers Treat Paralysis in Rats by Using Embryonic Human Stem Cells

Researchers at the University of California at Irvine announced in July that they were able to treat the bruised spines of rats by injecting the animals with human embryonic stem cells.

Dr. Hans Kierstead headed up the research which took human embryonic stem cells and modified them into cells that form the myelin sheath around nerve fibers (oligodendrocytes). The stem cells were then injected into the bruised spinal cords of the rats.

After a little more than two months, the formerly paralyzed rates regained the ability to walk. According to a report on the research in New Scientist,

Analysis of the rats’ spinal cords revealed that the transplanted oligodendrocytes had wrapped themselves around neurons and formed new myelin sheaths. The transplanted cells also secreted growth factors that appear to have stimulated the formation of new neurons.

Kierstead’s team repeated the experiment three times, finding similar results each time.

New Scientist also reports that another team, led by Douglas Kerr at John Hopkins University, also announced in late June that they had performed a similar experiment. Kerr’s team injected undifferentiated human embryonic stem cells into rats with injured spinal cords. The rats regained the ability to support their own weight again 24 weeks after the treatment.


Human cells used to make paralyzed rats walk. Charles Arthur, The Independent, July 3, 2003.

Stem cells enable paralyzed rats to walk. New Scientist, July 3, 2003.

PETA Uses Bea Arthur to Annoy Palmer Chiropractic University Employees

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had Bea Arthur record a message complaining about the treatment of animals in federally funded studies being conducted at the Palmer Chiropractic University in Florida.

The taped messages were sent to dozens of employees at the university using an automated telephone messaging system. The messages claimed that Palmer “mutilates” cats. Palmer has grants totaling more than $1 million for spinal research involving felines and rats.

In her taped message, Arthur said, “Palmer should conduct humane studies on volunteer human patients rather than torture animals.”

Palmer Vice President for Research William Meeker countered that PETA is distorting the facts (hard to believe, right?)

What PETA supporters fail to realize is that this research is not only rigorously regulated by external and internal governing bodies who ensure that the highest possible standards in animal care are followed, but that this type of research is vital for understanding how the neural and musculoskeletal systems function.

In a Question and Answer piece on its web site, Palmer Chiropractic says of PETA’s attacks against the university,

Why is PETA attacking Palmer?s research?

It?s simple. PETA is attacking Palmer because we use laboratory animals in some of our research studies. PETA does not really care about how well we treat our laboratory animals because PETA is unalterably opposed to the use of animals in research for any and all reasons whatsoever. PETA is also against the use of animals for food or clothing, or as pets ( In fact, PETA is against the use of animals for any human purpose of any kind. PETA does not seem to recognize that any good has arisen, or can arise from research using animals. (Ironically, health care research using animals and humans benefits both animals and humans alike.)

In a letter dated last November 2002, PETA threatened to ?do everything in our power to stop you.? PETA will never stop attacking Palmer as long as laboratory animals are used, regardless of the significance of the research and despite the fact that all such studies adhere to extremely stringent regulations and ethical guidelines for humane care. We also suspect that PETA is attacking Palmer and the chiropractic profession because they perceive us as weak. We note that many, many research institutions with much larger animal research programs are ignored by PETA. Why doesn?t PETA attack the 125 medical schools in the U.S.?

. . .

PETA continues to imply that Palmer cuts the legs and tails off the rats. Is this true?

No. PETA had obtained a grant proposal from Palmer that had originally discussed this methodology at one time. However, during the almost year long period of scientific review at NIH, new studies were published describing a new behavioral model of rat bipedalism. When these became known to NIH program officers and Palmer investigators, the protocols were changed. We have no plans to use the old surgical bipedal model, even though it has been used extensively in the past in spine research (over 30 references available upon request).


Animal rights group harasses college. Chiropractic Economics, July 2003.

Questions and Answers about Research Using Laboratory Animals at Palmer Chiropractic University. Press Release, Palmer Chiropractic University, July 27, 2003.

“Golden Girl” to Call Employees for PETA?s Sake. Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, June 12, 2003.

Animal Activist Accused of Trying to Sabotage Rat Eradication Efforts

A few weeks ago, Channel Islands National Park announced that it now believes that Anacapa Island is now free of non-native black rats which were a threat to endangered bird species on the island. On June 20 an animal activist went on trial before a federal judge on charges of trying to sabotage the rat eradication program.

Bob Puddicombe, 52, is the founder of the Channel Islands Animal Protection Association which, along with the Fund for Animals, filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against the eradication plan. Puddicombe is accused of attempting to sabotage the eradication plan by giving rats an antidote to the poison used in the eradication.

Prosecutors allege than on October 24, 2001, Puddicombe and another man, Robert Crawford, arrived at the island in an inflatable boat to spread food pellets with vitamin K. Vitamin K is an antidote to many common rat poisons.

Crawford plead guilty to interfering with the activities of a federal agency and illegally feeding the antidote to rats. He was fined $200.

Puddicombe denies the charges and his public defender argued before U.S. District Court Judge Willard McEwan that the government could not prove that Puddicombe actually scattered any food pellets on the island.

If convicted, Puddicombe could face up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.


Attorneys clash in island rat case. Sylvia Moore, Ventura County Star (California), June 21, 2003.

News briefs from around California. Associated Press, June 21, 2003.

Researchers Repair Rat's Spinal Cord

A team of researchers led by Dr. Geoffrey Raisman published a study in the June Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine describing how they repaired a rat’s damaged spinal cord by transplanting cells from its nose.

The researchers transplanted olfactory nerve cells into the scar tissue of the rat’s damaged spinal cord. The nerve cells bridged the damage and restored the functionality of the severed nerve fibers in the spinal cord.

Raisman was quoted in the Daily Mail (London) as saying,

This procedure allows spinal nerve fibres to regrow in a way which has not been thought possible. . . . I have been working in this direction all my life and I never expected we would get this far. We now believe that human trials would be worthwhile.

Similar studies in other animals will have to take place first, but Raisman hopes human trials of this technique could begin within three years. It is certainly the latest in a string of findings thanks to animal research that offers the hope of one day curing even serious spinal cord injuries.


Rat healing raises hope for spinal cure. Corinne Amoo, Reuters, June 1, 2003.

Trials To Start On Repairing Damaged Spinal Cords. Paul Sims, The Daily Mail (London), June 2, 2003.

Rat Study Raises Spinal Cord Hopes For Humans. Stephen Cauchi, Sydney Morning Herald, June 3, 2003.

Anacapa Island Likely Free of Black Rats, Finally

Officials with the Channel Islands National Park announced in May that they believe Anacapa Island is now free of black rats after an eradication project that cost upwards of $1 million. Kate Faulkner, chief of natural resources management at the park, added that it would not be until 2004, however, until biologist could make the official determination that the black rat had been eradicated.

Anacapa Island is an important island for a number of species, including the rare Xantus? murrelet. The murrelet population was threatened by the rats who would eat the murrelet eggs. The rats were introduced to the island sometime before 1940, likely by a wrecked ship.

The American Trader Trustee Council used money it won as compensation for a 1990 oil spill, and which had to be used for restore seabird populations, to pay for the eradication.

But before it could get off the ground, the eradication effort had to overcome opposition from animal rights activists who offered a number of objections to the plan, ranging from claims that the poison to be used was cruel since it kills by causing internal bleeding to claims that a species of deer mice that is found on the island should be declared endangered.

In October 2001 the Fund for Animals and the Channel Islands Animal Protection Association filed a lawsuit arguing that the eradication plan had not adequately taken into account the effects of deer mice and birds eating the poison pellets. That lawsuit was dismissed by a federal court in December 2001 and Phase I of the eradication plan, which targeted the eastern part of the island, was put into effect.

Phase II, which targeted the middle and western part of the island, was conducted last fall.


Anacapa Island’s black rats killed off. David Montero, Ventura County Star News, May 22, 2003.