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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.

 


 

Erythropoietin and Friedreich Ataxia: Time for a Reappraisal?

FA is a rare neurological disorder due to deficiency of the mitochondrial protein frataxin. Frataxin deficiency results in impaired mitochondrial function and iron deposition in affected tissues. Erythropoietin (EPO) is a cytokine which was mostly known as a key regulator of erythropoiesis until cumulative evidence showed additional neurotrophic and neuroprotective properties. These features offered the rationale for advancement of EPO in clinical trials in different neurological disorders in the past years, including FA. Several mechanisms of action of EPO may be beneficial in FA. First of all, EPO exposure results in some frataxin upregulation in vitro and in vivo. By promoting erythropoiesis, EPO influences iron metabolism and induces shifts in iron pool which may ameliorate conditions of free iron excess and iron accumulation. Furthermore, EPO signaling is crucial for mitochondrial gene activation and mitochondrial biogenesis. Up to date nine clinical trials investigated the effects of EPO and derivatives in FA. The majority of these studies had a proof-of-concept design. Considering the natural history of FA, all of them were too short in duration and not powered for clinical changes. However, these studies addressed significant issues in the treatment with EPO, such as (1) the challenge of the dose finding, (2) stability of frataxin up-regulation, (3) continuous versus intermittent stimulation with EPO/regimen, or (4) tissue changes after EPO exposure in humans in vivo (muscle biopsy, brain imaging). The recent development of small EPO mimetics which maintain cytoprotective properties without erythropoietic action may open a new era in EPO research for the treatment of FA.

Read the entire article HERE

Peripapillary retinal nerve fibre layer thickness in Friedreich's ataxia: a biomarker for trials?

This letter describes data comparing retinal nerve fiber layer thinning measured by optical coherence tomography (OCT) to other clinical measures of FA progression. It shows that OCT measurements correlate to GAA1 length, disease duration, SARA score and activities of daily living scores, offering potential as a biomarker for clinical trials.

Read the entire article HERE

New Insights into the Hepcidin-Ferroportin Axis and Iron Homeostasis in iPSC-Derived Cardiomyocytes from Friedreich's Ataxia Patient

Iron balance in the cardiac tissue as well as the involvement of the hepcidin-ferroportin (HAMP-FPN) axis in this process and in cardiac functionality are not fully understood. Imbalance of iron occurs in several cardiac diseases, including iron-overload cardiomyopathies such as Friedreich's ataxia (FA). Using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to create heart cells (cardiomyocytes) from cells from a FRDA patient and of a healthy control subject in order to study the cardiac iron balance and the HAMP-FPN axis. FA cardiomyocytes maintain the FA-like phenotype. They found that FA cardiomyocytes show an increase in the protein expression of hepcidin and ferroportin. Moreover, they found an unexpected nuclear localization of ferroportin in both affected and unaffected cardiomyocytes. However, the amount of the nuclear ferroportin was lower in FA cardiomyocytes than in controls. These and other data suggest that iron handling and the HAMP-FPN axis regulation in FA cardiac cells are hampered and that ferroportin may have new, still not fully understood, functions.

Read the entire article HERE

Hypoxia Rescues Frataxin Loss by Restoring Iron Sulfur Cluster Biogenesis

Mootha lab team Frataxin participates in the biosynthesis of Fe-S clusters and is considered to be essential for viability. This paper reports that when grown in 1% ambient O2, FXN null yeast, human cells, and nematodes are fully viable. In human cells, hypoxia restores steady-state levels of Fe-S clusters and normalizes ATF4, NRF2, and IRP2 signaling events associated with FRDA. Cellular studies and in vitro reconstitution indicate that hypoxia acts through HIF-independent mechanisms that increase bioavailable iron as well as directly activate Fe-S synthesis. In a mouse model of FRDA, breathing 11% O2 attenuates the progression of ataxia, whereas breathing 55% O2 hastens it. This work identifies oxygen as a key environmental variable in the pathogenesis associated with FXN depletion, with important mechanistic and therapeutic implications.

Read the entire article HERE



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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.

Read the entire article HERE

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