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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.


A Drosophila model of Friedreich Ataxia with CRISPR/Cas9 insertion of GAA repeats in the frataxin gene reveals in vivo protection by N-acetyl cysteine

Thanks to the high degree of frataxin conservation, the Drosophila melanogaster fruitfly appears as an adequate animal model to study Friedreich Ataxia (FA) and to evaluate therapeutic interventions. The authors generated a Drosophila model of FA with CRISPR/Cas9 insertion of approximately 200 GAA in the intron of the fly frataxin gene fh. These flies exhibit a developmental delay and lethality associated with decreased frataxin expression. Preadult lethality was by-passed using genetic tools to overexpress frataxin only during the developmental period. These frataxin-deficient adults are short-lived and present strong locomotor defects. RNA-Seq analysis identified deregulation of genes involved in amino-acid metabolism and transcriptomic signatures of oxidative stress. In particular, this group observed a progressive increase of Tspo expression, fully rescued by adult frataxin expression. Thus, Tspo expression constitutes a molecular marker of the disease progression in this fly model and might be of interest in other animal models or in patients. Finally, in a candidate drug screening, it was observed that N-acetyl cysteine improved the survival, locomotor function, resistance to oxidative stress and aconitase activity of frataxin-deficient flies. Therefore, this model provides the opportunity to elucidate in vivo the protective mechanisms of this molecule of therapeutic potential. This study also highlights the strength of the CRISPR/Cas9 technology to introduce human mutations in endogenous orthologous genes, leading to Drosophila models of human diseases with improved physiological relevance.

Read the entire article HERE

Antioxidant Defense Mechanisms and its Dysfunctional Regulation in the Mitochondrial Disease, Friedreich's Ataxia

Redox stress is associated with the pathogenesis of a wide variety of disease states. This can be amplified potentially through redox active iron deposits in oxidatively active organelles such as the mitochondrion. There are a number of disease states, including Friedreich's ataxia (FA) and sideroblastic anemia, where iron metabolism is dysregulated and leads to mitochondrial iron accumulation. Considering FA, which is due to the decreased expression of the mitochondrial protein, frataxin, this iron accumulation does not occur within protective storage proteins such as mitochondrial ferritin. Instead, it forms unbound biomineral aggregates composed of high spin iron(III), phosphorous and sulfur, which probably contributes to the observed redox stress. There is also a dysregulated response to the ensuing redox assault, as the master regulator of oxidative stress, nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor-2 (Nrf2), demonstrates marked down-regulation. The dysfunctional response of Nrf2 in FA is due to multiple mechanisms including: (1) up-regulation of Keap1 that is involved in Nrf2 degradation; (2) activation of the nuclear Nrf2 export/degradation machinery via glycogen synthase kinase-3β (Gsk3β) signaling; and (3) inhibited nuclear translocation of Nrf2. More recently, increased microRNA (miRNA) 144 expression has been demonstrated to down-regulate Nrf2 in several disease states, including an animal model of FA. Other miRNAs have also demonstrated to be dysregulated upon frataxin depletion in vivo in humans and animal models of FA. Collectively, frataxin depletion results in multiple, complex responses that lead to detrimental redox effects that could contribute to the mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of FA.

Read the entire article HERE

Toward quantitative neuroimaging biomarkers for Friedreich's ataxia at 7 Tesla: Susceptibility mapping, diffusion imaging, R 2 and R 1 relaxometry

Ten (Friedreich's ataxia) FRDA patients (mean age 37 ± 14 years; four female) and 10 age- and sex-matched controls were included. Acquisition of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data for quantitative susceptibility mapping, R1 , R2 relaxometry and diffusion imaging was performed at 7 Tesla. Results of volume of interest (VOI)-based analyses of the quantitative data were compared with a voxel-based morphometry (VBM) evaluation. Differences between patients and controls were assessed using the analysis of covariance (ANCOVA; p < 0.01) with age and sex as covariates, effect size of group differences, and correlations with disease characteristics with Spearman correlation coefficient. For the VBM analysis, a statistical threshold of 0.001 for uncorrected and 0.05 for corrected p-values was used. Statistically significant differences between FRDA patients and controls were found in five out of twelve investigated structures, and statistically significant correlations with disease characteristics were revealed. Moreover, VBM revealed significant white matter atrophy within regions of the brainstem, and the cerebellum. These regions overlapped partially with brain regions for which significant differences between healthy controls and patients were found in the VOI-based quantitative MRI evaluation. It was shown that two independent analyses provided overlapping results. Moreover, positive results on correlations with disease characteristics were found, indicating that these quantitative MRI parameters could provide more detailed information and assist the search for effective treatments.

Read the entire article HERE

Antioxidant Therapies and Oxidative Stress in Friedreich´s Ataxia: The Right Path or Just a Diversion?

One of the most studied hallmarks of Friedreich´s ataxia (FRDA) is the increased production of oxidative stress markers in patients and models. This feature has been the motivation to develop treatments that aim to counteract such boost of free radicals and to enhance the production of antioxidant defenses. In this work, the authors present and critically review those "antioxidant" drugs that went beyond the disease´s models and were approved for its application in clinical trials. The evaluation of these trials highlights some crucial aspects of the FRDA research. On the one hand, the analysis contributes to elucidate whether oxidative stress plays a central role or whether it is only an epiphenomenon. On the other hand, it comments on some limitations in the current trials that complicate the analysis and interpretation of their outcome. The authors also include some suggestions that will be interesting to implement in future studies and clinical trials.

Read the entire article HERE

Larimar Therapeutics Announces Dosing of Patients in Third Cohort of Phase 1 SAD Trial of CTI-1601 for Treatment of Friedreich’s Ataxia

BALA CYNWYD, Pa., July 20, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Larimar Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq:LRMR), a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing treatments for complex rare diseases, today announced that patients have been dosed in the third cohort of a Phase 1 clinical trial to evaluate the safety and tolerability of single ascending doses (SAD) of CTI-1601 for the treatment of Friedreich’s ataxia (FA). The trial was previously delayed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. CTI-1601 is a recombinant fusion protein intended to deliver human frataxin into the mitochondria of patients with FA who are unable to produce enough of this essential protein.

The double-blind, placebo-controlled trial is evaluating the safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics of single ascending doses of subcutaneously administered CTI-1601 in patients over age 18 with FA. To date, two cohorts of patients have completed the Phase 1 clinical trial. Topline results are planned for the first half of 2021.

Additional information on the trial can be found at www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04176991

See the entire press release here

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