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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.

Design Therapeutics Launches with $45 Million to Develop a New Class of Disease-Modifying Therapies for Serious Degenerative Disorders

Series A Financing Funds Novel Pipeline for Patients with Nucleotide Repeat Disorders

Company Advancing Lead Program for Friedreich’s Ataxia toward Clinical Development

San Diego, Calif., March 20, 2020 – Design Therapeutics announced today that it is launching to create and develop a new class of therapies for patients with serious degenerative disorders caused by nucleotide repeat expansions. The company has closed a $45 million Series A financing led by SR One, with participation from Cormorant Asset Management, Quan Capital and WestRiver Group, to advance its lead therapeutic candidate into clinical development for the treatment of Friedreich’s ataxia, and support advancement of its discovery programs for multiple other degenerative diseases, including fragile X syndrome and myotonic dystrophy. The company’s pipeline is led by a novel program for Friedreich’s ataxia. Design Therapeutics has developed a novel program that unblocks transcription, thereby restoring the natural production and function of frataxin. With the use of proceeds from the Series A fundraising, Design Therapeutic intends to conduct IND-enabling studies and initiate clinical development for its program for Friedreich’s ataxia.

Read the entire article HERE

Identification of Frataxin as a regulator of ferroptosis

Ferroptosis is a newly discovered form of non-apoptotic regulated cell death and is characterized by iron-dependent and lipid peroxidation. Due to the enhanced dependence on iron in cancer cells, induction of ferroptosis is becoming a promising therapeutic strategy. However, the precise underlying molecular mechanism and regulation process of ferroptosis remains largely unknown. In the present study, we demonstrate that the protein Frataxin (FXN) is a key regulator of ferroptosis by modulating iron homeostasis and mitochondrial function. Suppression of FXN expression specifically repressed the proliferation, destroyed mitochondrial morphology, impeded Fe-S cluster assembly and activated iron starvation stress. Moreover, suppression of FXN expression significantly enhanced erastin-induced cell death through accelerating free iron accumulation, lipid peroxidation and resulted in dramatic mitochondria morphological damage including enhanced fragmentation and vanished cristae. In addition, this type of cell death was confirmed to be ferroptosis, since it could be pharmacologically restored by ferroptotic inhibitor Fer-1 or GSH, but not by inhibitors of apoptosis, necrosis. Vice versa, enforced expression of FXN blocked iron starvation response and erastin-induced ferroptosis. More importantly, pharmacological or genetic blocking the signal of iron starvation could completely restore the resistance to ferroptosis in FXN knockdown cells and xenograft graft in vivo. This paper suggests that FXN is a novel ferroptosis modulator, as well as a potential provided target to improve the antitumor activity based on ferroptosis.

Read the entire article HERE

The Assessment of Upper Limb Functionality in Friedreich Ataxia via Self-Feeding Activity

The objective assessment of motor impairment resulting from neurological disorders forms the basis for effective rehabilitation and therapeutic programs. Such assessments conducted through the engagement of suitable daily activities can serve as an effective surrogate measure for the assessment of independent living. This study considers an instrumented spoon in the assessment of upper-limb functionality through the self-feeding activity of a group of individuals clinically diagnosed with the debilitating condition, Friedreich ataxia (FRDA). Thirty-five subjects with FRDA (34±14 years old) and 14 age-matched healthy subjects performed three cycles of self-feeding consisting of grasping, scooping, transferring food to mouth and returning the spoon. Parameters relating to the feeding rate, trajectory of the rotation, range of motion and movement variability with specific attention to each segment were considered for the capture of ataxia pertaining to the disability. Movement variability measured by Dynamic Time Warping (DTW) resulted in an average accuracy of 96% in the diagnosis of ataxia (separation of the two cohorts). The severity of ataxia estimated using a combination of features from Random Forest (RF) increased the correlation with the clinical estimates of ataxia by 13% and achieved higher coefficient (0.72 in patient scale) than the currently used tests (Box & Block, Pegboard). While the overall results provided an objective, daily activity based means of capturing intrinsic abnormalities, the different segments of the task demonstrated the presence of ataxia in a spatial context concurring with relevant clinical observations.

Read the entire article HERE

Inherited Metabolic Diseases and Cardiac Pathology in Adults: Diagnosis and Prevalence in a CardioMetabo Study

Many inherited metabolic diseases (IMD) have cardiac manifestations. The aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of IMD in adult patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and cardiac rhythm abnormalities that require cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIEDs). The study included a review of the medical files of patients aged 18 to 65 years who were followed in our cardiology department during the period 2010-2017. Metabolic explorations for Fabry disease (FD), mitochondrial cytopathies, and fatty-acid metabolism disorders were carried out in patients with unexplained etiology. The prevalence of IMD in patients with HCM was 5.6% (confidence interval (CI): 2.6-11.6). Six cases of IMD were identified: 1 mitochondrial encephalopathy with lactic acidosis and stroke-like episodes (MELAS) syndrome, 1 Hurler syndrome, 2 Friedreich's ataxia, 1 FD, and 1 short-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency. Three cases of IMD were identified in patients requiring CIEDs: 1 patient with Leber hereditary optic neuropathy, 1 FD, and 1 short chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (SCAD) deficiency. IMD prevalence in patients with CIEDs was 3.1% (CI: 1.1-8.8). IMD evaluation should be performed in unexplained HCM and cardiac rhythm abnormalities adult patients, since the prevalence of IMD is relatively important and they could benefit from specific treatment and family diagnosis.

Read the entire article HERE

Management of Neuroinflammatory Responses to AAV-Mediated Gene Therapies for Neurodegenerative Diseases

Recently, adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated gene therapies have attracted clinical interest for treating neurodegenerative diseases including spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), Canavan disease (CD), Parkinson's disease (PD), and Friedreich's ataxia (FA). The influx of clinical findings led to the first approved gene therapy for neurodegenerative disorders in 2019 and highlighted new safety concerns for patients. Large doses of systemically administered AAV stimulate host immune responses, resulting in anti-capsid and anti-transgene immunity with implications for transgene expression, treatment longevity, and patient safety. Delivering lower doses directly to the central nervous system (CNS) is a promising alternative, resulting in higher transgene expression with decreased immune responses. However, neuroinflammatory responses after CNS-targeted delivery of AAV are a critical concern. Reported signs of AAV-associated neuroinflammation in preclinical studies include dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and spinal cord pathology with mononuclear cell infiltration. In this review, the authors discuss ways to manage neuroinflammation, including choice of AAV capsid serotypes, CNS-targeting routes of delivery, genetic modifications to the vector and/or transgene, and adding immunosuppressive strategies to clinical protocols. As additional gene therapies for neurodegenerative diseases enter clinics, tracking biomarkers of neuroinflammation will be important for understanding the impact immune reactions can have on treatment safety and efficacy.

Read the entire article HERE

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