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FARAFARA Cure FA

 

FARA Funded Research

Your generous support has funded all the research listed below.

For more information on FARA-funded research & scientists, please visit FARA Supported Research, Active Clinical Trials and the Featured Scientist.


 

 

Microvascular pathology in Friedreich cardiomyopathy

Heart disease is an integral part of Friedreich ataxia (FA). In addition to cardiomyocytes getting bigger, death of muscle fibers, and inflammatory infiltration, heart tissues show fibrosis and disorganized capillaries. This group examined the left ventricular wall (LVW) of 41 homozygous and 2 compound heterozygous FA patients aged 10-87 and 21 controls aged 2-69. They quantified the numbers of capillaries for comparison with the number of cardiac cells in the same field. The median ratio of capillaries to cardiomyocytes in samples from unaffected individuals was 1.0. In FA, the number of cardiomyocytes/mm² was significantly less, and the median ratio of capillaries to heart fibers was 2.0. There was a significant correlation of the expanded guanine-adenine-adenine trinucleotides (shorter allele, GAA1) with a younger age of onset, shorter disease duration, and lower cardiomyocyte counts. The ratio of capillaries to heart fibers was higher in patients with long GAA1 repeat expansions. Data supports endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition in the pathogenesis of cardiac fibrosis in FA. We propose that the pathogenesis of FA heart disease includes primary fibrosis.

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Dimethyl fumarate dosing in humans increases frataxin expression: A potential therapy for Friedreich's Ataxia

High throughput screening of clinically used drugs identified Dimethyl fumarate (DMF) as protective in FA patient cells. This group demonstrates that DMF significantly increases frataxin gene (FXN) expression in FA cell models, FA mouse models and in DMF treated humans. DMF also rescues mitochondrial biogenesis deficiency in FA-patient derived cell models. In FA patient cells, they demonstrate that DMF significantly increases initiation of new FXN transcripts and reduction in DNA structures thought to slow FXN production, significantly increasing FXN expression. Lastly, DMF dosed Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients showed significant increase in FXN expression by ~85%. As deficiency in FXN is the primary cause of FA, and DMF is demonstrated to increase FXN expression in humans, with further work DMF could be a possible therapy for FA.

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Efficient Electroporation of Neuronal Cells Using Synthetic Oligonucleotides: Identifying Duplex RNA and Antisense Oligonucleotide Activators of Human Frataxin Expression

Oligonucleotide drugs are experiencing greater success in the clinic, encouraging the initiation of new projects. Resources are insufficient to develop every potentially important project and persuasive experimental data using cell lines close to disease target tissue is needed to prioritize candidates. This group has previously shown that synthetic nucleic acids can activate FXN expression in human patient-derived cells. They further tested these compounds in patient derived cells formed into cells that develop into neurons (iPSC-NPCs). Here we describe methods to deliver oligonucleotides and duplex RNAs into iPSC-NPC's cells using electroporation. Activation of FXN expression is potent, easily reproducible, and potencies parallel those determined using previous cell types. Oligonucleotides with various chemical modifications were active, providing multiple starting points for further development and highlighting improved potency as an important goal for preclinical development. This data support the conclusion that ASO-mediated activation of FXN is a feasible approach for treating FA and that electroporation is a robust method for introducing ASOs to modulate gene expressions in neuronal cells.

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Probing the multifactorial source of hand dysfunction in Friedreich ataxia

Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) has a significant effect on hand function which in turn, may compromise independence and quality of life. This study sought to identify the extent of muscle weakness, spasticity and changes in joint range in the hands of individuals with FRDA. The group found evidence for both upper and lower motor neuron impairment in this population. Thirteen (68.0%) participants had spasticity in the dominant wrist and finger flexors, and seven (36.8%) had contracture in at least one joint of either hand. Sixteen (84.3%) participants demonstrated weakness in the intrinsic musculature of the hands and the majority demonstrated some degree of hyperextension at the metacarpophalangeal joints of either hand. Significant correlations were found between functional independence capacity and clinical parameters, and components of spasticity and weakness in both the dominant and non-dominant hands. Moreover, spasticity and weakness in the dominant hand were shown to be significant predictors of reduced functional independence capacity. This study highlights for the first time the incidence of upper limb spasticity which, in combination with weakness and contracture, suggests a multifactorial source of hand dysfunction in people with FRDA.

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Identification of a novel missense mutation in Friedreich's ataxia -FXNW 168R

Friedreich's ataxia, characterized by decreased expression of frataxin protein, is caused by GAA trinucleotide repeats within intron 1 in 98% of patients. Two percent of patients carry GAA repeats in conjunction with a point mutation. In this work, the authors find that frataxinW168R, a novel disease-causing missense mutation, is expressed predominantly as the intermediate frataxin42-210 form, with very little expression of mature frataxin81-210 form. Its localization to mitochondria is not impaired. Additionally, increasing frataxinW168R precursor levels do not lead to an increase in mature frataxin levels, suggesting these patients will require alternative approaches to repair frataxin processing in order to treat the disorder in a disease-modifying manner.

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