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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.

Differential efficacies of Cas nucleases on microsatellites involved in human disorders and associated off-target mutations

Microsatellite expansions are the cause of >20 neurological or developmental human disorders. Shortening expanded repeats using specific DNA endonucleases may be envisioned as a gene editing approach. This study measured the efficacy of several CRISPR-Cas nucleases to induce recombination within disease-related microsatellites, in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Broad variations in nuclease performances were detected on all repeat tracts. Wild-type Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (SpCas9) was more efficient than Staphylococcus aureus Cas9 on all repeats tested, except (CAG)33. Cas12a (Cpf1) was the most efficient on GAA trinucleotide repeats, whereas GC-rich repeats were more efficiently cut by SpCas9. The main genetic factor underlying Cas efficacy was the propensity of the recognition part of the sgRNA to form a stable secondary structure, independently of its structural part. This suggests that such structures form in vivo and interfere with sgRNA metabolism. The yeast genome contains 221 natural CAG/CTG and GAA/CTT trinucleotide repeats. Deep sequencing after nuclease induction identified three of them as carrying statistically significant low frequency mutations, corresponding to SpCas9 off-target double-strand breaks.

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The Cost of Living with Inherited Ataxia in Ireland

Inherited ataxias are a heterogenous group of neurodegenerative disorders characterized by progressive impairment of balance and coordination, typically leading to permanent and progressive disability. Diagnosis and management of these disorders incurs a range of direct and indirect financial costs. The aim of this study was to collect individual ataxia-related healthcare resources in a large cohort of individuals with different subtypes of inherited ataxia and calculate the associated cost of illness in the Republic of Ireland. One hundred twenty-nine respondents completed a cross-sectional study on healthcare resource utilization for progressive ataxia in Ireland. Costs were calculated using a prevalence-based approach and bottom-up methodology. The COI for inherited ataxia in 2016 was €59,993 per person per year. Results were similar between participants with Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA, n = 56), non-FRDA (n = 18) and those with undetermined ataxia (n = 55). Indirect costs, based on productivity losses by participants or caregivers, accounted for 52% of the cost of illness. Inherited ataxia is associated with significant health and social care costs. Further funding for inherited ataxia to ease the financial burden on patients, caregivers and healthcare system and improve standards of care compliance is warranted.

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Generation of transgene-free iPSC lines from three patients with Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) carrying GAA triplet expansions in the first intron of FXN gene

In this present study, the authors generated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) lines from fibroblasts of three unrelated FRDA patients using integration-free episomal vectors. All iPSC lines express the pluripotency markers such as OCT4 and SSEA4, display normal karyotypes and can differentiate into all three germ layers via in vivo teratoma formation assay.

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Molecular Details of the Frataxin-Scaffold Interaction during Mitochondrial Fe-S Cluster Assembly

Iron-sulfur clusters are essential to almost every life form and utilized for their unique structural and redox-targeted activities within cells during many cellular pathways. Although there are three different Fe-S cluster assembly pathways in prokaryotes (the NIF, SUF and ISC pathways) and two in eukaryotes (CIA and ISC pathways), the iron-sulfur cluster (ISC) pathway serves as the central mechanism for providing 2Fe-2S clusters, directly and indirectly, throughout the entire cell in eukaryotes. Proteins central to the eukaryotic ISC cluster assembly complex include the cysteine desulfurase, a cysteine desulfurase accessory protein, the acyl carrier protein, the scaffold protein and frataxin (in humans, NFS1, ISD11, ACP, ISCU and FXN, respectively). Recent molecular details of this complex (labeled NIAUF from the first letter from each ISC protein outlined earlier), which exists as a dimeric pentamer, have provided real structural insight into how these partner proteins arrange themselves around the cysteine desulfurase, the core dimer of the (NIAUF)2 complex. In this review, the authors focus on both frataxin and the scaffold within the human, fly and yeast model systems to provide a better understanding of the biophysical characteristics of each protein alone and within the FXN/ISCU complex as it exists within the larger NIAUF construct. These details support a complex dynamic interaction between the FXN and ISCU proteins when both are part of the NIAUF complex and this provides additional insight into the coordinated mechanism of Fe-S cluster assembly.

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LEXEO Therapeutics Receives Rare Pediatric Disease Designation and Orphan Drug Designation.

NEW YORK – June 30, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – LEXEO Therapeutics, a clinical-stage gene therapy company, today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Rare Pediatric Disease designation and Orphan Drug designation to LX2006 for the treatment of Friedreich’s ataxia (FA). LX2006 is an IV-administered, adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated gene therapy encoding the human frataxin gene. The designations granted to LX2006 cover cardiac disease and broader symptoms associated with FA.

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