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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.


Mammalian iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis: Recent insights into the roles of frataxin, acyl carrier protein and ATPase-mediated transfer to recipient proteins.

The recently solved crystal structures of the human cysteine desulfurase NFS1, in complex with the LYR protein ISD11, the acyl carrier protein ACP, and the main scaffold ISCU, have shed light on the molecular interactions that govern initial cluster assembly on ISCU. In this review, the authors aim to highlight recent insights into iron-sulfur (Fe-S) cluster (ISC) biogenesis in mammalian cells that have arisen from the crystal structures of the core ISC assembly complex. The authors will also discuss how ISCs are delivered to recipient proteins and the challenges that remain in dissecting the pathways that deliver clusters to numerous Fe-S recipient proteins in both the mitochondrial matrix and cytosolic compartments of mammalian cells.

Read the entire article HERE

Retrotope Expands its Drug Pipeline with the First Dosing of RT001 in patients with Friedreich’s ataxia (FA)

Three clinical trials centers now open for enrollment; two additional ones initiating

LOS ALTOS, Calif., January 9, 2020 -- Retrotope announced today that it has dosed its first patient in a Phase 2/3 clinical trial of RT001 in Friedreich’s ataxia, the most common of the inherited ataxias. RT001, a stabilized fatty acid drug, has been shown to reduce lipid peroxidation leading to cell death in patients across a wide swath of degenerative diseases, including FA. More information and a list of participating clinical sites for the current trial in FA can be obtained at ClinicalTrials.gov http://bit.ly/2T2FWA5. With this trial, the company expands its pipeline of indications for RT001 which is currently being studied in a pivotal trial in another fatal, neurodegenerative disease, Infantile Neuroaxonal Dystrophy (INAD), which is fully enrolled.

View the entire Press Release HERE

Longitudinal Increases in Cerebral Brain Activation During Working Memory Performance in Friedreich Ataxia: 24-Month Data from IMAGE-FRDA

This study assessed longitudinal changes in brain activation, associated with working memory performance (N-back task), and grey matter volume over 24 months in 21 individuals with Friedreich Ataxia (FRDA) and 28 healthy controls using functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging, respectively. Participants also completed a neurocognitive battery assessing working memory (digit span), executive function (Stroop, Haylings), and set-shifting (Trail Making Test). Individuals with FRDA displayed significantly increased brain activation over 24 months in ventral attention brain regions, including bilateral insula and inferior frontal gyrus (pars triangularis and pars opercularis), compared with controls, but there was no difference in working memory (N-back) performance between groups. Moreover, there were no significant differences in grey matter volume changes between groups. Significant correlations between brain activations and both clinical severity and age at disease onset were observed in FRDA individuals only at 24 months. There was significant longitudinal decline in Trail Making Test (TMT) difference score (B-A) in individuals with FRDA, compared with controls. These findings provide the first evidence of increased longitudinal activation over time in the cerebral cortex in FRDA, compared with controls, despite comparable working memory performance. This finding represents a possible compensatory response in the ventral attention network to help sustain working memory performance in individuals with FRDA.

Read the entire article HERE

Genetic Analysis of Hereditary Ataxias in Peru Identifies SCA10 Families with Incomplete Penetrance

Relative frequency of hereditary ataxias remains unknown in many regions of Latin America. The authors described the relative frequency in spinocerebellar ataxias (SCA) due to (CAG)n and to (ATTCT)n expansions, as well as Friedreich ataxia (FRDA), among cases series of ataxic individuals from Peru. Among ataxic index cases from 104 families (38 of them with and 66 without autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance), they identified 22 SCA10, 8 SCA2, 3 SCA6, 2 SCA3, 2 SCA7, 1 SCA1, and 9 FRDA cases (or families). SCA10 was by far the most frequent one. Findings in SCA10 and FRDA families were of note. Affected genitors were not detected in 7 out of 22 SCA10 nuclear families; then overall maximal penetrance of SCA10 was estimated as 85%; in multiplex families, penetrance was 94%. Two out of nine FRDA cases carried only one allele with a GAA expansion. SCA10 was the most frequent hereditary ataxia in Peru. These data suggested that ATTCT expansions at ATXN10 might not be fully penetrant and/or instability between generations might frequently cross the limits between non-penetrant and penetrant lengths. A unique distribution of inherited ataxias in Peru requires specific screening panels, considering SCA10 as first line of local diagnosis guidelines.

Read the entire article HERE

Exenatide induces frataxin expression and improves mitochondrial function in Friedreich ataxia

In this study, the authors examined the metabolic, neuroprotective and frataxin-inducing effects of glucagon-like-peptide 1 (GLP-1) analogs in in vivo and in vitro models and in Friedreich ataxia patients. The GLP-1 analog exenatide improved glucose homeostasis of frataxin-deficient mice through enhanced insulin content and secretion in pancreatic β-cells. Exenatide induced frataxin and iron-sulfur cluster-containing proteins in β-cells and brain, and was protective to sensory neurons in dorsal root ganglia. GLP-1 analogs also induced frataxin expression, reduced oxidative stress and improved mitochondrial function in Friedreich ataxia patients' induced pluripotent stem cell-derived β-cells and sensory neurons. The frataxin-inducing effect of exenatide was confirmed in a pilot trial in Friedreich ataxia patients, showing modest frataxin induction in platelets over a 5-week treatment course. Taken together, GLP-1 analogs improve mitochondrial function in frataxin-deficient cells and induce frataxin expression. These findings identify incretin receptors as a therapeutic target in Friedreich ataxia.

Read the entire article HERE

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