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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.

Unique roles of iron and zinc binding to the yeast Fe-S cluster scaffold assembly protein "Isu1"

Mitochondrial Fe-S cluster biosynthesis is accomplished within yeast utilizing the biophysical attributes of the "Isu1" scaffold assembly protein. During assembly, the scaffold helps direct the delivery and utilization of Fe(ii) and persulfide substrates to produce [2Fe-2S] clusters, however Zn(ii) binding alters the activity of the scaffold while at the same time stabilizes the protein in its structured state. Understanding the interplay between Fe(ii) and Zn(ii) binding to Isu1 in vitro may help clarify metal loading events that occur during Fe-S cluster assembly in vivo. The authors determine the metal : protein stoichiometry for Isu1 Zn and Fe binding to be 1 : 1 and 2 : 1, respectively. As expected, while Zn binding shifts the Isu1 to its structured state, folding is not influenced by Fe(ii) binding. X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) confirms Zn(ii) binds to the scaffold's cysteine rich active site but Fe(ii) binds at a location distinct from the active site. XAS results show Isu1 binding initially of either Fe(ii) or Zn(ii) does not significantly perturb the metal site structure of alternate metal. XAS confirmed that four scaffold orthologs bind iron as high-spin Fe(ii) at a site composed of ca. 6 oxygen and nitrogen nearest neighbor ligands. Also, Zn binding dramatically reduces the Fe-S cluster assembly activity of Isu1 even in the presence of frataxin. Given the Fe-binding activity reported for Isu1 and its orthologs here, a possible mechanism involving Fe(ii) transport to the scaffold's active site during cluster assembly has been considered.

Read the entire article HERE

Mechanism of activation of the human cysteine desulfurase complex by frataxin

The function of frataxin (FXN) has garnered great scientific interest since its depletion was linked to Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA). FXN has been shown to be necessary for iron-sulfur (Fe-S) cluster biosynthesis and proper mitochondrial function. Although previous studies show that FXN stimulates the activity of this assembly complex, the mechanism of FXN activation is poorly understood. In this study, a radiolabeling assay and stopped-flow kinetics are used to establish that FXN is functionally linked to the mobile S-transfer loop cysteine of NFS1. The results support key roles for this essential cysteine residue in substrate binding, as a general acid to advance the Cys-quinonoid PLP intermediate, as a nucleophile to form an NFS1 persulfide, and as a sulfur delivery agent to generate a persulfide species on the Fe-S scaffold protein ISCU2. FXN specifically accelerates each of these individual steps in the mechanism. The authors propose an architectural switch model explains why the human Fe-S assembly system has low inherent activity and requires activation, the connection between the functional mobile S-transfer loop cysteine and FXN binding, and why the prokaryotic system does not require a similar FXN-based activation. Together, these results provide mechanistic insights into the allosteric-activator role of FXN and suggest new strategies to replace FXN function in the treatment of FRDA.

Read the entire article HERE

Two new Pfizer-coauthored studies validate Novoheart’s pioneering human bioengineered heart tissues and chambers for improving drug development

Published in the July 2019 issue of Stem Cell Research and Therapy2, Novoheart developed the world's first customized, 3D engineered, human cardiac tissue models of Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA), a rare neuromuscular degenerative disease that affects over 1 in 50,000 people worldwide. FRDA patients have a defective Frataxin gene, which often leads to lethal heart complications. This new disease model, based on MyHeartTM assays, was created using genetically modified as well as FRDA patient-derived cells, capturing both electrical and mechanical defects of the heart observed in FRDA patients.

This new approach marks an important step away from using animals as traditional testing models – they have limited predictive ability for drug discovery due to dramatic differences from human physiology. Novoheart's FRDA models, on the other hand, offer an innovative and powerful human-based platform to develop new therapies for FRDA's cardiac symptoms, for which no effective treatments are currently available.

With sole ownership of the intellectual property rights, Novoheart is now commercializing the FRDA disease model and has subsequently confirmed commercial contracts with multiple drug developers.

Read the Press Release HERE

Read the article HERE

Scoliosis in Patients With Friedreich Ataxia: Results of a Consecutive Prospective Series

This is a single center (Robert Debré Hospital, Paris, FR) prospective study describing the radiologic characteristics and evolution of spinal shapes in a pediatric cohort of patients with Friedreich ataxia (FA). Sixty six FA patients were prospectively included between 2008 and 2017. Clinical, functional, and radiologic records were conducted twice a year. Coronal curve types, segmental measurements, and skeletal maturity were assessed. A scoliotic deformity was reported in 71% of the patients at a mean age of 11.7 ± 3.1 years. Average follow-up was 6 years, including 75% of patients with closed triradiate cartilage at latest examination. Mean Cobb angle was 34° ± 2°. Main right thoracic curves were the most frequent curves observed (36%), followed by double major (21%), thoracolumbar and left thoracic curves (13%), main lumbar (11%), and long C-shape curves (6%). Hyperkyphosis (>40°) was present in 66%, with an average kyphosis angle of 50° ± 3°, and anterior misalignment (>5°) occurred in 53%. The severity of the Cobb angle was neither correlated to the FA severity scores nor the age at FA diagnosis. An arthrodesis was performed in 9 patients, including 5 patients (45%) who were ambulatory at least 1 year after surgery. The prevalence of scoliosis in FA was high (71%), and thoracic hyperkyphosis, with anterior misalignment, was frequently observed, which might be related to the anterior imbalance frequently encountered in patients with an ataxia. Posterior fusion including sacral instrumentation was only performed in nonambulatory patients, and the loss of ambulation was not associated with spinal surgery.

Read the entire article HERE

Friedreich ataxia- pathogenesis and implications for therapies

This is a review article focusing on the insights into the pathogenesis of this disorder and how those insights are being translated into novel therapeutic approaches. For example, more recently, a role for inflammation has emerged as being important in the pathogenesis of Friedreich ataxia. These findings have led to a number of potential therapies that have been subjected to clinical trials or are being developed toward human studies. Therapies that have been proposed include pharmaceuticals that increase frataxin levels, protein and gene replacement therapies, antioxidants, iron chelators and modulators of inflammation. While no therapies have yet been approved for Friedreich ataxia, there is much optimism that the advances in the understanding of the pathogenesis of this disorder since the discovery its genetic basis, will result in approved disease modifying therapies in the near future.

Read the entire article HERE

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