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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.


Long-term voluntary running prevents the onset of symptomatic Friedreich's ataxia in mice

Endurance exercise is the most powerful intervention for promoting mitochondrial function; however, its impact on Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) has not been studied. Here the authors found that mice with genetic knockout and knock-in of the Fxn gene (KIKO mice) developed exercise intolerance, glucose intolerance and moderate cardiac dysfunction at 6 months of age. These abnormalities were associated with impaired mitochondrial respiratory function concurrent with reduced iron regulatory protein 1 (Irp1) expression as well as increased oxidative stress, which were not due to loss of mitochondrial content and antioxidant enzyme expression. Importantly, long-term (4 months) voluntary running in KIKO mice starting at a young age (2 months) completely prevented the functional abnormalities along with restored Irp1 expression, improved mitochondrial function and reduced oxidative stress in skeletal muscle without restoring Fxn expression. The authors conclude that endurance exercise training prevents symptomatic onset of FRDA in mice associated with improved mitochondrial function and reduced oxidative stress. These preclinical findings may pave the way for clinical studies of the impact of endurance exercise in FRDA patients.

Read the entire article HERE

Calpain-Inhibitors Protect Frataxin-Deficient Dorsal Root Ganglia Neurons from Loss of Mitochondrial Na+/Ca2+ Exchanger, NCLX, and Apoptosis

Calpains are calcium-dependent proteases activated in apoptotic cell death and neurodegeneration. Dorsal root ganglion (DRG) sensory neurons are among the cellular types most affected in Friedreich Ataxia. The authors have previously demonstrated that frataxin-deficient DRGs show calpain activation, alteration in calcium levels and decreased content of the Na+/Ca2+ exchanger (NCLX). This transporter is involved in mitochondrial calcium efflux. In this study, a time-course analysis of several parameters altered in a frataxin-deficient DRGs is performed. These include decline of NCLX levels, calcium accumulation, mitochondrial depolarization, α-fodrin fragmentation and apoptotic cell death. Furthermore, the effect of the calpain inhibitors MDL28170 and Calpeptin on these parameters were analysed. These inhibitors increase NCLX levels, protect sensory neurons from neurite degeneration and calcium accumulation, and restore mitochondrial membrane potential. In addition, calpain 1 reduction alleviated neurodegeneration in frataxin-deficient DRG neurons. These results strengthen the hypothesis of a central role for calcium homeostasis and calpains in frataxin-deficient dorsal root ganglia neurons.

Read the entire article HERE

Cofilin dysregulation alters actin turnover in frataxin-deficient neurons

Abnormalities in actin cytoskeleton have been linked to Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA), an inherited peripheral neuropathy characterised by an early loss of neurons in dorsal root ganglia (DRG) among other clinical symptoms. Despite all efforts to date, we still do not fully understand the molecular events that contribute to the lack of sensory neurons in FRDA. The authors studied the adult neuronal growth cone (GC) at the cellular and molecular level to decipher the connection between frataxin and actin cytoskeleton in DRG neurons of the well-characterised YG8R Friedreich's ataxia mouse model. Immunofluorescence studies in primary cultures of DRG from YG8R mice showed neurons with fewer and smaller GCs than controls, associated with an inhibition of neurite growth. In frataxin-deficient neurons, the authors also observed an increase in the filamentous (F)-actin/monomeric (G)-actin ratio (F/G-actin ratio) in axons and GCs linked to dysregulation of two crucial modulators of filamentous actin turnover, cofilin-1 and the actin-related protein (ARP) 2/3 complex. The authors show how the activation of cofilin is due to the increase in chronophin (CIN), a cofilin-activating phosphatase. Thus cofilin emerges, for the first time, as a link between frataxin deficiency and actin cytoskeleton alterations.

Read the entire article HERE

Particle-mediated delivery of frataxin plasmid to a human sensory neuronal model of Friedreich's ataxia

Increasing frataxin protein levels through gene therapy is envisaged to improve therapeutic outcomes for patients with Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA). A non-viral strategy that uses submicrometer-sized multilayered particles to deliver frataxin-encoding plasmid DNA affords up to 27 000-fold increase in frataxin gene expression within 2 days in vitro in a stem cell-derived neuronal model of FRDA.

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Frataxin-deficient cardiomyocytes present an altered thiol-redox state which targets actin and pyruvate dehydrogenase

Friedreich ataxia (FA) is a cardioneurodegenerative disease caused by deficient frataxin expression. This mitochondrial protein has been related to iron homeostasis, energy metabolism, and oxidative stress. Previously, the authors set up a cardiac cellular model of FA based on neonatal rat cardiac myocytes (NRVM) and lentivirus-mediated frataxin RNA interference. These frataxin-deficient NRVMs presented lipid droplet accumulation, mitochondrial swelling and signs of oxidative stress. Therefore, the authors decided to explore the presence of protein thiol modifications in this model. With this purpose, reduced glutathione (GSH) levels were measured and the presence of glutathionylated proteins was analyzed. The authors observed decreased GSH content and increased presence of glutathionylated actin in frataxin-deficient NRVMs. Moreover, the presence of oxidized cysteine residues was investigated using the thiol-reactive fluorescent probe iodoacetamide-Bodipy and 2D-gel electrophoresis. With this approach, the authors identified two proteins with altered redox status in frataxin-deficient NRVMs: electron transfer flavoprotein-ubiquinone oxidoreductase and dihydrolipoyl dehydrogenase (DLDH). As DLDH is involved in protein-bound lipoic acid redox cycling, we analyzed the redox state of this cofactor and we observed that lipoic acid from pyruvate dehydrogenase was more oxidized in frataxin-deficient cells. Also, by targeted proteomics, we observed a decreased content on the PDH A1 subunit from pyruvate dehydrogenase. Finally, we analyzed the consequences of supplementing frataxin-deficient NRVMs with the PDH cofactors thiamine and lipoic acid, the PDH activator dichloroacetate and the antioxidants N-acetyl cysteine and Tiron. Both dichloroacetate and Tiron were able to partially prevent lipid droplet accumulation in these cells. Overall, these results indicate that frataxin-deficient NRVMs present an altered thiol-redox state which could contribute to the cardiac pathology.

Read the entire article HERE

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