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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.


A wearable video-oculography based evaluation of saccades and respective clinical correlates in patients with early onset ataxia

Friedreich Ataxia (FRDA) and other inherited chronic ataxias (CAs) are common causes of early onset ataxias (EOA), a group of conditions still lacking effective therapies and biomarkers. Ocular saccades are considered a reliable paradigm of motor control, useful to track the functioning of underlying neural networks and serving as potential markers for neurological diseases. A non-invasive video-oculography device (EyeSeeCam) was used to test saccadic parameters (latency, amplitude, duration, velocity) and peak velocity/amplitude ratio ("main sequence") in pediatric patients with FRDA, CAs and healthy controls, providing correlations with standard clinical scores. EyeSeeCam allowed testing saccades easily and quickly even in pediatric patients with EOA. Pattern of saccadic features differed between CA and FRDA. The main sequence analysis was impaired respectively in vertical saccades in CA, and in horizontal saccades in FRDA. In CA, the amplitude of vertical saccades was reduced, and the size inversely correlated with the Scale for the assessment and rating of ataxia (SARA) score. In FRDA the amplitude of horizontal saccades directly correlated with SARA score. Since such differences may reflect distinct pathophysiological substrates, saccades emerged as a potential source of biomarkers in EOAs. Availability of handy tools, such as EyeSeeCam, may facilitate future research in this field.

Read the entire article HERE

Neurophysiologic intraoperative monitoring (NIOM) in pediatric patients with polyneuropathy

Neurophysiologic intraoperative monitoring (NIOM) abnormalities during scoliosis surgery led to a diagnosis of Friedreich's ataxia in this illustrative case. This prompted the retrospective examination of NIOM for pediatric scoliosis surgery in polyneuropathy patients. Among patients who underwent scoliosis surgery in 2010-2017, there were six polyneuropathy patients identified. Their clinical history and baseline NIOM data were reviewed. Scoliosis accompanied Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, Friedreich's ataxia, and ataxia telangiectasia. Some patients with no recorded somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) exhibited motor evoked potentials (MEPs); no patients with absent MEPs had SEPs present. NIOM modifications included SEP stimulation rate; type of SEP electrodes used; train parameters for MEP acquisition; and sweep speed. This sample of NIOM data for previously monitored scoliosis cases in children with polyneuropathy allowed investigation of patterns of findings and troubleshooting attempts to optimize monitoring. Attentiveness to pertinent medical history prepared the NIOM team to change typical recording parameters based on underlying polyneuropathy. A multimodality approach provided useful information as several of these cases would have been unmonitorable with use of SEPs alone. As for the case described, the awareness of NIOM patterns in polyneuropathy may guide evaluations of patients with presumed idiopathic scoliosis who have unrecognized polyneuropathy.

Read the entire article HERE

Design Therapeutics Launches with $45 Million to Develop a New Class of Disease-Modifying Therapies for Serious Degenerative Disorders

Series A Financing Funds Novel Pipeline for Patients with Nucleotide Repeat Disorders

Company Advancing Lead Program for Friedreich’s Ataxia toward Clinical Development


San Diego, Calif., March 20, 2020 – Design Therapeutics announced today that it is launching to create and develop a new class of therapies for patients with serious degenerative disorders caused by nucleotide repeat expansions. The company has closed a $45 million Series A financing led by SR One, with participation from Cormorant Asset Management, Quan Capital and WestRiver Group, to advance its lead therapeutic candidate into clinical development for the treatment of Friedreich’s ataxia, and support advancement of its discovery programs for multiple other degenerative diseases, including fragile X syndrome and myotonic dystrophy. The company’s pipeline is led by a novel program for Friedreich’s ataxia. Design Therapeutics has developed a novel program that unblocks transcription, thereby restoring the natural production and function of frataxin. With the use of proceeds from the Series A fundraising, Design Therapeutic intends to conduct IND-enabling studies and initiate clinical development for its program for Friedreich’s ataxia.

Read the entire article HERE

Identification of Frataxin as a regulator of ferroptosis

Ferroptosis is a newly discovered form of non-apoptotic regulated cell death and is characterized by iron-dependent and lipid peroxidation. Due to the enhanced dependence on iron in cancer cells, induction of ferroptosis is becoming a promising therapeutic strategy. However, the precise underlying molecular mechanism and regulation process of ferroptosis remains largely unknown. In the present study, we demonstrate that the protein Frataxin (FXN) is a key regulator of ferroptosis by modulating iron homeostasis and mitochondrial function. Suppression of FXN expression specifically repressed the proliferation, destroyed mitochondrial morphology, impeded Fe-S cluster assembly and activated iron starvation stress. Moreover, suppression of FXN expression significantly enhanced erastin-induced cell death through accelerating free iron accumulation, lipid peroxidation and resulted in dramatic mitochondria morphological damage including enhanced fragmentation and vanished cristae. In addition, this type of cell death was confirmed to be ferroptosis, since it could be pharmacologically restored by ferroptotic inhibitor Fer-1 or GSH, but not by inhibitors of apoptosis, necrosis. Vice versa, enforced expression of FXN blocked iron starvation response and erastin-induced ferroptosis. More importantly, pharmacological or genetic blocking the signal of iron starvation could completely restore the resistance to ferroptosis in FXN knockdown cells and xenograft graft in vivo. This paper suggests that FXN is a novel ferroptosis modulator, as well as a potential provided target to improve the antitumor activity based on ferroptosis.

Read the entire article HERE

The Assessment of Upper Limb Functionality in Friedreich Ataxia via Self-Feeding Activity

The objective assessment of motor impairment resulting from neurological disorders forms the basis for effective rehabilitation and therapeutic programs. Such assessments conducted through the engagement of suitable daily activities can serve as an effective surrogate measure for the assessment of independent living. This study considers an instrumented spoon in the assessment of upper-limb functionality through the self-feeding activity of a group of individuals clinically diagnosed with the debilitating condition, Friedreich ataxia (FRDA). Thirty-five subjects with FRDA (34±14 years old) and 14 age-matched healthy subjects performed three cycles of self-feeding consisting of grasping, scooping, transferring food to mouth and returning the spoon. Parameters relating to the feeding rate, trajectory of the rotation, range of motion and movement variability with specific attention to each segment were considered for the capture of ataxia pertaining to the disability. Movement variability measured by Dynamic Time Warping (DTW) resulted in an average accuracy of 96% in the diagnosis of ataxia (separation of the two cohorts). The severity of ataxia estimated using a combination of features from Random Forest (RF) increased the correlation with the clinical estimates of ataxia by 13% and achieved higher coefficient (0.72 in patient scale) than the currently used tests (Box & Block, Pegboard). While the overall results provided an objective, daily activity based means of capturing intrinsic abnormalities, the different segments of the task demonstrated the presence of ataxia in a spatial context concurring with relevant clinical observations.

Read the entire article HERE

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