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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.


CRISPR Therapeutics and Capsida Biotherapeutics Announce Strategic Collaboration to Develop Gene-Edited Therapies for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Friedreich’s Ataxia

ZUG, Switzerland and CAMBRIDGE, Mass. and THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., June 15, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- CRISPR Therapeutics (Nasdaq: CRSP), a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing transformative gene-based medicines for serious diseases, and Capsida Biotherapeutics Inc., a biotechnology company dedicated to developing breakthrough gene therapies using fully integrated adeno-associated virus (AAV) engineering, cargo development and manufacturing, today announced a strategic partnership to research, develop, manufacture and commercialize in vivo gene editing therapies delivered with engineered AAV vectors for the treatment of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Friedreich’s ataxia.

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Friedreich ataxia in a family from Mali, West Africa/Friedreich ataxia in a Malian family

Friedreich ataxia is the most common inherited ataxia in the world, but yet to be reported in black African. This study reports the first genetically confirmed case in a West African family. Studying genetic diseases in populations with diverse backgrounds may give new insights into their pathophysiology for future therapeutic targets.

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Frataxin and endothelial cell senescence in pulmonary hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension (PH), increased blood pressure within the lungs, is classified into five diagnostic groups based on etiology, with treatment assigned on this basis. Currently, only Group 1 pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) and Group 4 chronic thromboembolic PH (CTEPH) have pharmacological treatments available. The role of the endothelial cell in pulmonary hypertension has long been debated, and in this month’s issue of the JCI, Culley et al. present evidence for the reduction in frataxin expression across multiple groups of PH. Reduced frataxin expression led to endothelial cell senescence and associated with the development of PH. Removal of the senescent cells using the senolytic drug Navitoclax in multiple models of PH effectively treated PH, suggesting a new class of treatments that may work beyond Group 1 and Group 4 PH in patients with evidence of pulmonary vascular endothelial senescence.

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Iron-sulfur cluster deficiency can be sensed by IRP2 and regulates iron homeostasis and sensitivity to ferroptosis independent of IRP1 and FBXL5

Intracellular iron levels are strictly regulated to support homeostasis and avoid iron-mediated ROS production. Loss of iron-sulfur cluster (ISC) synthesis can increase iron loading and promote cell death by ferroptosis. Iron-responsive element-binding proteins IRP1 and IRP2 posttranscriptionally regulate iron homeostasis. IRP1 binding to target mRNAs is competitively regulated by ISC occupancy. However, IRP2 is principally thought to be regulated at the protein level via E3 ubiquitin ligase FBXL5-mediated degradation. Here, we show that ISC synthesis suppression can activate IRP2 and promote ferroptosis sensitivity via a previously unidentified mechanism. At tissue-level O2 concentrations, ISC deficiency enhances IRP2 binding to target mRNAs independent of IRP1, FBXL5, and changes in IRP2 protein level. Deletion of both IRP1 and IRP2 abolishes the iron-starvation response, preventing its activation by ISC synthesis inhibition. These findings will inform strategies to manipulate ferroptosis sensitivity and help illuminate the mechanism underlying ISC biosynthesis disorders, such as Friedreich's ataxia.

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Mitochondrial and metabolic dysfunction in Friedreich ataxia: update on pathophysiological relevance and clinical interventions

This paper reviews some of the processes downstream of frataxin deficiency that may mediate the pathophysiology. Based on cellular models, in vivo models and observations of patients, ferroptosis may play a major role in the pathogenesis of FRDA along with depletion of antioxidant reserves and abnormalities of mitochondrial biogenesis. Ongoing clinical trials with ferroptosis inhibitors and nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) activators are now targeting each of the processes. In addition, better understanding of the mitochondrial events in FRDA may allow the development of improved imaging methodology for assessing the disorder. Though not technologically feasible at present, metabolic imaging approaches may provide a direct methodology to understand the mitochondrial changes occurring in FRDA and provide a methodology to monitor upcoming trials of frataxin restoration.

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