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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.

Ancestral roles of eukaryotic frataxin

Mitochondrial frataxin function and heterologous expression of hydrogenosomal Trichomonas homologues in trypanosomes

Frataxin is a small conserved mitochondrial protein; in humans, mutations affecting frataxin expression or function result in Friedreich's ataxia. Much of the current understanding of frataxin function comes from informative studies with yeast models, but considerable debates remain with regard to the primary functions of this ubiquitous protein. We exploit the tractable reverse genetics of Trypanosoma brucei in order to specifically consider the importance of frataxin in an early branching lineage. Using inducible RNAi, we show that frataxin is essential in T. brucei and that its loss results in reduced activity of the marker Fe-S cluster-containing enzyme aconitase in both the mitochondrion and cytosol.

Read More: Ancestral roles of eukaryotic frataxin

Protection against hydrogen peroxide-mediated cytotoxicity in Friedreich's ataxia fibroblasts using novel iron chelators of the 2-pyridylcarboxaldehyde isonicotinoyl hydrazone class

Iron-loading diseases remain an important problem because of the toxicity of iron-catalyzed redox reactions. Iron loading occurs in the mitochondria of Friedreich's ataxia (FA) patients and may play a role in its pathogenesis. This suggests that iron chelation therapy could be useful. We developed previously the lipophilic iron chelators known as the 2-pyridylcarboxaldehyde isonicotinoyl hydrazone (PCIH) ligands and identified 2-pyridylcarboxaldehyde 2-thiophenecarboxyl hydrazone (PCTH) as the most promising analog. Hence, this study assessed the efficacy of PCTH and other PCIH analogs compared with various chelators, including deferiprone and desferrioxamine (DFO). Age- and sex-matched control and FA fibroblasts were preincubated with iron chelators and subsequently challenged with 50 microM H2O2 for up to 24 h. The current study demonstrates an interesting structure-activity relationship among the closely related PCIH series of ligands, with only PCTH being highly effective at preventing H2O2-induced cytotoxicity.

Read More: Protection against hydrogen peroxide-mediated cytotoxicity in Friedreich's ataxia

Iron-dependent regulation of frataxin expression: implications for treatment of Friedreich ataxia

Friedreich ataxia (FA) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by expansion of a trinucleotide repeat within the first intron of the gene that encodes frataxin. In our study, we investigated the regulation of frataxin expression by iron and demonstrated that frataxin mRNA levels decrease significantly in multiple human cell lines treated with the iron chelator, desferal (DFO). In addition, frataxin mRNA and protein levels decrease in fibroblast and lymphoblast cells derived from both normal controls and from patients with FA when treated with DFO. Lymphoblasts and fibroblasts of FA patients have evidence of cytosolic iron depletion, as indicated by increased levels of iron regulatory protein 2 (IRP2) and/or increased IRE-binding activity of IRP1. We postulate that this inferred cytosolic iron depletion occurs as frataxin-deficient cells overload their mitochondria with iron, a downstream regulatory effect that has been observed previously when mitochondrial iron-sulfur cluster assembly is disrupted.

Read More: Iron-dependent regulation of frataxin expression: implications for treatment of Friedreich ataxia

Antioxidant use in Friedreich ataxia

Many antioxidants have been suggested as potential treatments for Friedreich ataxia, but have not been tested in clinical trials. We found that a majority of patients in our cohort already use such antioxidants, including idebenone, which is not available at a pharmaceutical grade in the United States. Younger age, cardiomyopathy and shorter GAA repeat length were independent predictors of idebenone use, but no factors predicted use of other antioxidants. This confirms that non-prescription antioxidant use represents a major confounder to formal trials of existing and novel agents for Friedreich ataxia.

Read More: Antioxidant use in Friedreich ataxia

HDAC Inhibitors Correct Frataxin Deficiency in a Friedreich Ataxia Mouse Model

Friedreich ataxia, an autosomal recessive neurodegenerative and cardiac disease, is caused by abnormally low levels of frataxin, an essential mitochondrial protein. All Friedreich ataxia patients carry a GAA⋅TTC repeat expansion in the first intron of the frataxin gene, either in the homozygous state or in compound heterozygosity with other loss-of-function mutations. The GAA expansion inhibits frataxin expression through a heterochromatin-mediated repression mechanism. Histone modifications that are characteristic of silenced genes in heterochromatic regions occur at expanded alleles in cells from Friedreich ataxia patients, including increased trimethylation of histone H3 at lysine 9 and hypoacetylation of histones H3 and H4.

Read More: HDAC Inhibitors Correct Frataxin Deficiency in a Friedreich Ataxia Mouse Model

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