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FARAFARA Cure FA

 

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.

Health related quality of life in Friedreich Ataxia in a large heterogeneous cohort

This study assessed the Health Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) of individuals with Friedreich Ataxia (FRDA) through responses to HRQOL questionnaires. The SF-36, a generic HRQOL instrument, and symptom specific scales examining vision, fatigue, pain and bladder function were administered to individuals with FRDA and analyzed by comparison with disease features. Multiple linear regression models were used to study independent effects of genetic severity and age. Assessments were performed at baseline then intermittently after that. Subjects were on average young adults. For the SF36, the subscale with the lowest HRQOL score was the physical function scale, while the emotional well-being score was the highest. The physical function scale correlated with age of onset, duration, and subject age. In assessment of symptom specific scales, bladder control scores (BLCS) correlated with duration and age, while impact of visual impairment scores (IVIS) correlated with duration. In linear regression models, the BLCS, Pain Effect Score, and IVIS scores were predicted by age and GAA length; modified fatigue impact scale scores were predicted only by GAA length. Physical function and role limitation scores declined over time. No change was seen over time in other SF-36 subscores. Symptom specific scales also worsened over time, most notably the IVIS and BLCS. The SF-36 and symptom specific scales capture dysfunction in FRDA in a manner that reflects disease status. HRQOL dysfunction was greatest on physically related scales; such scales correlated with disease duration, indicating that they worsen with progressing disease.

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Multiple mechanisms underpin cerebral and cerebellar white matter deficits in Friedreich ataxia: The IMAGE-FRDA study

This study examined the relative sensitivity and relationship between multiple white matter indices in Friedreich ataxia to more richly characterize disease expression and infer possible mechanisms underlying the observed white matter abnormalities. Diffusion-tensor, magnetization transfer, and T1-weighted structural images were acquired from 31 individuals with Friedreich ataxia and 36 controls. Six white matter indices were extracted: fractional anisotropy, diffusivity (mean, axial, radial), magnetization transfer ratio (microstructure), and volume (macrostructure). For each index, whole-brain voxel-wise between-group comparisons and correlations with disease severity, onset age, and gene triplet-repeat length were undertaken. Correlations between pairs of indices were assessed in the Friedreich ataxia cohort. Spatial similarities in the voxel-level pattern of between-group differences across the indices were also assessed. Microstructural abnormalities were maximal in cerebellar and brainstem regions, but evident throughout the brain, while macroscopic abnormalities were restricted to the brainstem. Poorer microstructure and reduced macrostructural volume correlated with greater disease severity and earlier onset, particularly in peri-dentate nuclei and brainstem regions. Microstructural and macrostructural abnormalities were largely independent. Reduced fractional anisotropy was most strongly associated with axial diffusivity in cerebral tracts, and magnetization transfer in cerebellar tracts. Multiple mechanisms likely underpin white matter abnormalities in Friedreich ataxia, with differential impacts in cerebellar and cerebral pathways.

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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.

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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.

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Age of onset determines intrinsic functional brain architecture in Friedreich ataxia

In this study the authors used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to characterize the main determinants of Friedreich ataxia (FRDA)-related changes in intrinsic functional brain architecture. Five minutes of MEG signals were recorded at rest from 18 right-handed FRDA patients (mean age 27 years, 9 females; mean SARA score: 21.4) and matched healthy individuals. The MEG connectome was estimated as resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) matrices involving 37 nodes from six major resting state networks and the cerebellum. Source-level rsFC maps were computed using leakage-corrected broad-band (3-40 Hz) envelope correlations. Post hoc median-split was used to contrast rsFC in FRDA patients with different clinical characteristics. Nonparametric permutations and Spearman rank correlation test were used for statistics. High rank correlation levels were found between rsFC and age of symptoms onset in FRDA mostly between the ventral attention, the default-mode, and the cerebellar networks; patients with higher rsFC developing symptoms at an older age. Increased rsFC was found in FRDA with later age of symptoms onset compared to healthy subjects. No correlations were found between rsFC and other clinical parameters. This study points to age of symptom onset as a major determinant of FRDA patients' intrinsic functional brain architecture. Higher rsFC in FRDA patients with later age of symptom onset supports compensatory mechanisms for FRDA-related neural network dysfunction and position neuromagnetic rsFC as potential marker of FRDA neural reserve.

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