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A Drug Combination Rescues Frataxin-Dependent Neural and Cardiac Pathophysiology in FA Models

To date, FA therapeutic strategies have focused along two main lines using a single-drug approach: a) increasing frataxin and b) enhancing downstream pathways, including antioxidant levels and mitochondrial function. This paper presents novel strategy that employs a combinatorial approach to screen approved compounds to determine if a combination of molecules provides an additive or synergistic benefit to FA cells and/or animal models. Eight single drug molecules were administered to FA fibroblast patient cells: nicotinamide riboside, hemin, betamethasone, resveratrol, epicatechin, histone deacetylase inhibitor 109, methylene blue, and dimethyl fumarate. Their individual ability to induce FXN transcription and mitochondrial biogenesis in patient cells was measured. Single-drug testing highlighted that dimethyl fumarate and resveratrol increased these two parameters. In addition, the simultaneous administration of these two drugs was the most effective in terms of FXN mRNA and mitobiogenesis increase. Interestingly, this combination also improved mitochondrial functions and reduced reactive oxygen species in neurons and cardiomyocytes. Behavioral tests in an FA mouse model treated with dimethyl fumarate and resveratrol demonstrated improved rotarod performance. These data suggest that dimethyl fumarate is effective as a single agent, and the addition of resveratrol provides further benefit in some assays without showing toxicity. Therefore, they could be a valuable combination to counteract FA pathophysiology. Further studies will help fully understand the potential of a combined therapeutic strategy in FA pathophysiology.

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