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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.


Myocardial strain analysis by cardiac magnetic resonance 3D feature-tracking identifies subclinical abnormalities in patients with neuromuscular disease and no overt cardiac involvement

Cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) is valuable for the detection of cardiac involvement in neuromuscular diseases (NMDs). The authors explored the value of 2D- and 3D-left ventricular (LV) myocardial strain analysis using feature-tracking (FT)-CMR to detect subclinical cardiac involvement in NMD. The study included retrospective analysis of 111 patients with NMD; mitochondrial cytopathies (n = 14), Friedreich's ataxia (FA, n = 27), myotonic dystrophy (n = 27), Becker/Duchenne's muscular dystrophy (BMD/DMD, n = 15), Duchenne's carriers (n = 6), or other (n = 22) and 57 age- and sex-matched healthy volunteers. Biventricular volumes, myocardial late gadolinium enhancement (LGE), and LV myocardial deformation were assessed by FT-CMR, including 2D and 3D global circumferential strain (GCS), global radial strain (GRS), global longitudinal strain (GLS), and torsion. Compared with the healthy volunteers, patients with NMD had impaired 2D-GCS (P < 0.001) and 2D-GRS (in the short-axis, P < 0.001), but no significant differences in 2D-GRS long-axis (P = 0.101), 2D-GLS (P = 0.069), or torsion (P = 0.122). 3D-GRS, 3D-GCS, and 3D-GLS values were all significantly different to the control group (P < 0.0001 for all). Especially, even NMD patients without overt cardiac involvement (i.e. LV dilation/hypertrophy, reduced LVEF, or LGE presence) had significantly impaired 3D-GRS, GCS, and GLS vs. the control group (P < 0.0001). 3D-GRS and GCS values were significantly associated with the LGE presence and pattern, being most impaired in patients with transmural LGE. 3D-FT CMR detects subclinical cardiac muscle disease in patients with NMD even before the development of replacement fibrosis or ventricular remodelling which may be a useful imaging biomarker for early detection of cardiac involvement.

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Safety and pharmacokinetics of a highly bioavailable resveratrol preparation (JOTROL TM)

Resveratrol exhibits a ide range of biological properties, including anti-glycation, antioxidant, anti-inflammation, neuroprotective (including against advanced dementia and Alzheimer's disease), anti-cancer, and anti-aging activity in experimental models (Galiniak et al., Acta Biochim Pol 66:13-21, 2019). Unfortunately, this compound exhibits low bioavailability and solubility (Galiniak et al., Acta Biochim Pol 66:13-21, 2019), requiring large doses that can cause nausea and GI distress. JOTROLTM is a micellar 10% resveratrol solubilization formulation that is thought to increase bioavailability of resveratrol via lymphatic system absorption. Jupiter Neurosciences (formerly Jupiter Orphan Therapeutics; "Jupiter") is pursuing the use of resveratrol in mucopolysaccharidosis type 1 (MPS 1), Friedreich's ataxia, and Alzheimer's disease/mild cognitive impairment. This paper describes a first in human study (FIH) to evaluate the bioavailability of resveratrol after ascending, single oral doses up to 700 mg resveratrol as JOTROLTM. After a single 500 mg dose of JOTROLTM, a Cmax of 455 ng/mL was observed, vs. 85 ng/mL Cmax after a 1 g encapsulated dose (Turner et al., Neurology 85:1383-91, 2015) and 1942 ng/mL after a 2.5 g micronized dose (Howells et al., Cancer Prev Res (Phila) 4:1419-1425, 2011). In this study, resveratrol exposures (AUCs and Cmax) increased with increasing doses. This increase appears to be higher than dose-proportional for AUC0-t and Cmax. Resveratrol and its three major conjugates accounted for 40 to 55% of the dose in urine, consistent with a high extent of absorption, but < 1% of drug-related material was intact relative to key metabolites in plasma and urine. Studies in Alzheimer's patients and in MPS 1 are currently in development to test the effect this improved bioavailability has on those patient populations.

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Frataxin Deficit Leads to Reduced Dynamics of Growth Cones in Dorsal Root Ganglia Neurons of Friedreich's Ataxia YG8sR Model: A Multilinear Algebra Approach

In FRDA cells, the lack of frataxin promotes primarily mitochondrial dysfunction, an alteration of calcium (Ca2+) homeostasis and the destabilization of the actin cytoskeleton in the neurites and growth cones of sensory neurons. In this paper, a computational multilinear algebra approach was used to analyze the dynamics of the growth cone and its function in control and FRDA neurons. Computational approach, which includes principal component analysis and a multilinear algebra method, is used to quantify the dynamics of the growth cone (GC) morphology of sensory neurons from the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) of the YG8sR humanized murine model for FRDA. It was confirmed that the dynamics and patterns of turning were aberrant in the FRDA growth cones. In addition, these data suggest that other cellular processes dependent on functional GCs such as axonal regeneration might also be affected. Semiautomated computational approaches are presented to quantify differences in GC behaviors in neurodegenerative disease. In summary, the deficiency of frataxin has an adverse effect on the formation and, most importantly, the growth cones' function in adult DRG neurons. As a result, frataxin deficient DRG neurons might lose the intrinsic capability to grow and regenerate axons properly due to the dysfunctional GCs they build.

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Friedreich ataxia: clinical features and new developments

The multifaceted approach for clinical care in FRDA has necessitated the development of disease-specific clinical care guidelines. New developments in FRDA include the advancement of clinical drug trials targeting the NRF2 pathway and frataxin restoration. Additionally, a novel understanding of gene silencing in FRDA, reflecting a variegated silencing pattern, will have applications to current and future therapeutic interventions. Finally, new perspectives on the neuroanatomy of FRDA and its developmental features will refine the time course and anatomical targeting of novel approaches.

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Premature transcription termination at the expanded GAA repeats and aberrant alternative polyadenylation contributes to the Frataxin transcriptional deficit in Friedreich's ataxia

Frataxin deficiency in Friedreich's ataxia results from transcriptional downregulation of the FXN gene caused by expansion of the intronic trinucleotide GAA repeats. The authors used multiple transcriptomic approaches to determine the molecular mechanism of transcription inhibition caused by long GAAs. Transcription of FXN in patient cells is prematurely terminated upstream of the expanded repeats leading to formation of a novel, truncated and stable RNA. This FXN early terminated transcript, (FXN-ett) undergoes alternative, non-productive splicing and does not contribute to the synthesis of functional frataxin. The level the FXN-ett RNA directly correlates with the length of the longer of the two expanded GAA tracts. Targeting GAAs with antisense oligonucleotides or excision of the repeats eliminates the transcription impediment, diminishes expression of the aberrant FXN-ett, while increasing levels of FXN mRNA and frataxin. Non-productive transcription may represent a common phenomenon and attractive therapeutic target in diseases caused by repeat-mediated transcription aberrations.

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