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FARA Funded Research

Your generous support has funded all the research listed below.


For more information on FARA-funded research & scientists, please visit FARA Supported Research, Active Clinical Trials and the Featured Scientist.

Mitochondrial Damage and Senescence Phenotype of Cells Derived From a Novel Frataxin G127V Point Mutation Mouse Model of Friedreich's Ataxia

A prevalent missense mutation among Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) patients changes a glycine at position 130 to valine (G130V). Herein, we report generation of the first mouse model harboring a Fxn point mutation. Changing the evolutionarily conserved glycine 127 in mouse Fxn to valine results in a failure to thrive phenotype in homozygous animals and a substantially reduced number of offspring. Like G130V in FRDA, the G127V mutation results in a dramatic decrease of Fxn protein without affecting transcript synthesis or splicing. FxnG127V mouse embryonic fibroblasts exhibit significantly reduced proliferation and increased cell senescence. These defects are evident in early passage cells and are exacerbated at later passages. Furthermore, increased frequency of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) lesions and fragmentation are accompanied by marked amplification of mtDNA in FxnG127V cells. Bioenergetics analyses demonstrate higher sensitivity and reduced cellular respiration of FxnG127V cells upon alteration of fatty acid availability. Importantly, substitution of FxnWT with FxnG127V is compatible with life and cellular proliferation defects can be rescued by mitigation of oxidative stress via hypoxia or induction of the NRF2 pathway. We propose FxnG127V cells as a simple and robust model for testing therapeutic approaches for FRDA.

Read the entire article HERE

HMTase Inhibitors as a Potential Epigenetic-Based Therapeutic Approach for Friedreich's Ataxia

Currently there is no effective treatment for Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) and patients die prematurely. Recent findings suggest that abnormal GAA expansion plays a role in histone modification, subjecting the FXN gene to heterochromatin silencing. Therefore, as an epigenetic-based therapy, we investigated the efficacy and tolerability of two histone methyltransferase (HMTase) inhibitor compounds, BIX0194 (G9a-inhibitor) and GSK126 (EZH2-inhibitor), to specifically target and reduce H3K9me2/3 and H3K27me3 levels, respectively, in FRDA fibroblasts. We show that a combination treatment of BIX0194 and GSK126, significantly increased FXN gene expression levels and reduced the repressive histone marks. However, no increase in frataxin protein levels was observed. Nevertheless, our results are still promising and may encourage to investigate HMTase inhibitors with other synergistic epigenetic-based therapies for further preliminary studies.

Read the entire article HERE

CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing of Hematopoietic Stem Cells From Patients With Friedreich's Ataxia

These investigators have previously reported that syngeneic hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HSPC) transplantation prevented neurodegeneration in the Friedreich's Ataxia (FRDA) mouse model YG8R. This group showed that the mechanism of rescue was mediated by the transfer of the functional frataxin from HSPC-derived microglia/macrophage cells to neurons/myocytes. In this study, the first step toward an autologous HSPC transplantation using the CRISPR-Cas9 system for FRDA is reported. The authors first identified a pair of CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) that efficiently removes the GAA expansions in human FRDA lymphoblasts, restoring the non-pathologic level of frataxin expression and normalizing mitochondrial activity. They also optimized the gene-editing approach in HSPCs isolated from healthy and FRDA patients' peripheral blood and demonstrated normal hematopoiesis of gene-edited cells in vitro and in vivo. The procedure did not induce cellular toxic effect or major off-target events, but a p53-mediated cell proliferation delay was observed in the gene-edited cells. This study provides the foundation for the clinical translation of autologous transplantation of gene-corrected HSPCs for FRDA.

Read the entire article HERE

Analysis of Putative Epigenetic Regulatory Elements in the FXN Genomic Locus

The molecular mechanisms associated with Friedreich´s ataxia (FRDA) are still poorly understood and most studies on FXN gene regulation have been focused on the region around the minimal promoter and the region in which triplet expansion occurs. Nevertheless, since there could be more epigenetic changes involved in the reduced levels of FXN transcripts, the aim of this study was to obtain a more detailed view of the possible regulatory elements by analyzing data from ENCODE and Roadmap consortia databases. This bioinformatic analysis indicated new putative regulatory regions within the FXN genomic locus, including exons, introns, and upstream and downstream regions. Moreover, the region next to the end of intron 4 is of special interest, since the enhancer signals in FRDA-affected tissues are weak or absent in this region, whilst they are strong in the rest of the analyzed tissues. Therefore, these results suggest that there could be a direct relationship between the absence of enhancer sequences in this specific region and their predisposition to be affected in this pathology.

Read the entire article HERE

Neurofilament Light Chain as a Potential Biomarker of Disease Status in Friedreich Ataxia

The present study evaluates serum neurofilament light chain (NfL) as a biomarker of disease features in Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA). NfL levels from serum of 117 subjects (85 FRDA patients, 13 carriers, and 19 controls) were assayed and correlated with disease features such as smaller GAA repeat length (GAA1), age, sex, and level of neurological dysfunction. Mean serum NfL levels were higher in FRDA patients than in carriers or unaffected controls in two independent cohorts of subjects. In longitudinal samples from FRDA patients drawn monthly or 1 year apart, values changed minimally. No difference was noted between carriers and controls. NfL levels correlated positively with age in controls and carriers of similar age, (Rs = 0.72, p < 0.0005), whereas NfL levels inversely correlated with age in FRDA patients (Rs = - 0.63, p < 0.001). NfL levels were not associated with sex or GAA1 length in patients, and linear regression revealed a significant relationship between NfL levels in the cohort with age (coefficient = - 0.36, p < 0.001), but not sex (p = 0.64) or GAA1 (p = 0.13). Because NfL is elevated in patients, but decreases with age and disease progression, our results suggest that age is the critical determinant of NfL in FRDA (rather than clinical or genetic severity).

Read the entire article HERE

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