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FARAFARA Cure FA

 

Scientific News

FARA funds research progress

In this section, you will find the most recent FA research publications, many of which are funded by FARA, as well as information on upcoming conferences and symposiums. You can search for articles by date using the archive box in the right hand column. To locate FARA Funded or Supported Research, click the hyperlink in the right hand column. You may also search for specific content using key words or phrases in the search button at the top right of your screen. Please be sure to visit other key research sections of our website for information on FARA’s Grant Program and the Treatment Pipeline.

 


 

Molecular Mechanisms and Therapeutics for the GAA·TTC Expansion Disease Friedreich Ataxia

Friedreich ataxia (FA), the most common inherited ataxia, is caused by transcriptional silencing of the nuclear FXN gene, encoding the essential mitochondrial protein frataxin. Currently, there is no approved therapy for this fatal disorder. Gene silencing in FA is due to hyperexpansion of the triplet repeat sequence GAA·TTC in the first intron of the FXN gene, which results in chromatin histone modifications consistent with heterochromatin formation. Frataxin is involved in mitochondrial iron homeostasis and the assembly and transfer of iron-sulfur clusters to various mitochondrial enzymes and components of the electron transport chain. Frataxin insufficiency leads to progressive spinocerebellar neurodegeneration, causing symptoms of gait and limb ataxia, slurred speech, muscle weakness, sensory loss, and cardiomyopathy in many patients that may cause death in early adulthood. Numerous approaches are being taken to find a treatment for FA, including excision or correction of the repeats by genome engineering methods, gene activation with small molecules or artificial transcription factors, delivery of frataxin to affected cells by protein replacement therapy, gene therapy, or small molecules to increase frataxin protein levels, and therapies aimed at countering the cellular consequences of reduced frataxin. This review will summarize the mechanisms involved in repeat-mediated gene silencing and recent efforts aimed at development of therapeutics.

Read the entire article HERE

New developments in pharmacotherapy for Friedreich ataxia

Current and emerging therapies for Friedrich's Ataxia (FA) focus on reversing the deleterious effects of such deficiency including mitochondrial augmentation and increasing frataxin levels, providing the possibility of treatment options for this physiologically complex, multisystem disorder. In this review article, the authors discuss the current and prior in vivo and in vitro research studies related to the treatment of FA, with a particular interest in future implications of each therapy. Since the discovery of FXN in 1996, multiple clinical trials have occurred or are currently occurring; at a rapid pace for a rare disease. These trials have been directed at the augmentation of mitochondrial function and/or alleviation of symptoms and are not regarded as potential cures in FA. Either a combination of therapies or a drug that replaces or increases the pathologically low levels of frataxin better represent potential cures in FA.

Read the entire article HERE

The current state of biomarker research for Friedreich's ataxia: a report from the 2018 FARA biomarker meeting

The 2018 FARA Biomarker Meeting highlighted the current state of development of biomarkers for Friedreich's ataxia. A mass spectroscopy assay to sensitively measure mature frataxin (reduction of which is the root cause of disease) is being developed. Biomarkers to monitor neurological disease progression include imaging, electrophysiological measures and measures of nerve function, which may be measured either in serum and/or through imaging-based technologies. Potential pharmacodynamic biomarkers include metabolic and protein biomarkers and markers of nerve damage. Cardiac imaging and serum biomarkers may reflect cardiac disease progression. Considerable progress has been made in the development of biomarkers for various contexts of use, but further work is needed in terms of larger longitudinal multisite studies, and identification of novel biomarkers for additional use cases.

Read the entire article HERE

Correlation between frataxin expression and contractility revealed by in vitro Friedreich's ataxia cardiac tissue models engineered from human pluripotent stem cells

This paper describes the generation of species-specific, functional in vitro experimental models of FA using 2-dimensional (2D) and 3-dimensional (3D) engineered cardiac tissues from FXN-deficient human pluripotent stem cell-derived ventricular cardiomyocytes (hPSC-hvCMs). FXN-deficient hvCTS displayed attenuated developed forces (by 70-80%) compared to healthy controls. High-resolution optical mapping of hvCAS with reduced FXN expression also revealed electrophysiological defects consistent with clinical observations, including action potential duration prolongation and maximum capture frequency reduction. Interestingly, a clear positive correlation between FXN expression and contractility was observed (ρ > 0.9), and restoration of FXN protein levels by lentiviral transduction rescued contractility defects in FXN-deficient hvCTS. The authors conclude that these human-based in vitro cardiac tissue models of FA provide a translational, disease-relevant biomimetic platform for the evaluation of novel therapeutics and to provide insight into FA disease progression.

Read the entire article HERE

Evaluation of antibodies for western blot analysis of frataxin protein isoforms

Frataxin is the protein that is down-regulated in Friedreich ataxia (FA). There are currently no approved treatments for FA, although experimental approaches involving up-regulation or replacement of mature frataxin protein through numerous approaches are being tested. Many of the pre-clinical studies of these experimental approaches are conducted in mouse and monkey models as well as in human cell lines. Consequently, well-validated antibodies are required for use in western blot analysis to determine whether levels of various forms of frataxin have been increased. This group examined the specificity of five commercially available anti-frataxin antibodies and determined whether they detect mature frataxin in mouse heart tissue. Four protein standards of monkey, human, and mouse frataxin as well as mouse heart tissue were examined using polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) in combination with western blot analysis. One antibody failed to detect any of the frataxin standards or endogenous frataxin in mouse heart tissue. Three of the antibodies detected a protein in mouse heart tissue that ran slightly faster on PAGE (at 23.4 kDa) to that predicted for full-length frataxin (23.9 kDa). One antibody detected all four frataxin standards as well as His-tagged and endogenous mouse mature frataxin in mouse tissue. Significantly, this antibody, which will be useful for monitoring mature frataxin levels in monkey, human, and mouse tissues, did not detect a protein in mouse heart tissue at 23.4 kDa. Therefore, antibodies detecting the immunoreactive protein at 23.4 kDa could be misleading when testing for the up-regulation of frataxin in animal models.

Read the entire article HERE

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