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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.

Genetic Analysis of Hereditary Ataxias in Peru Identifies SCA10 Families with Incomplete Penetrance

Relative frequency of hereditary ataxias remains unknown in many regions of Latin America. The authors described the relative frequency in spinocerebellar ataxias (SCA) due to (CAG)n and to (ATTCT)n expansions, as well as Friedreich ataxia (FRDA), among cases series of ataxic individuals from Peru. Among ataxic index cases from 104 families (38 of them with and 66 without autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance), they identified 22 SCA10, 8 SCA2, 3 SCA6, 2 SCA3, 2 SCA7, 1 SCA1, and 9 FRDA cases (or families). SCA10 was by far the most frequent one. Findings in SCA10 and FRDA families were of note. Affected genitors were not detected in 7 out of 22 SCA10 nuclear families; then overall maximal penetrance of SCA10 was estimated as 85%; in multiplex families, penetrance was 94%. Two out of nine FRDA cases carried only one allele with a GAA expansion. SCA10 was the most frequent hereditary ataxia in Peru. These data suggested that ATTCT expansions at ATXN10 might not be fully penetrant and/or instability between generations might frequently cross the limits between non-penetrant and penetrant lengths. A unique distribution of inherited ataxias in Peru requires specific screening panels, considering SCA10 as first line of local diagnosis guidelines.

Read the entire article HERE

Exenatide induces frataxin expression and improves mitochondrial function in Friedreich ataxia

In this study, the authors examined the metabolic, neuroprotective and frataxin-inducing effects of glucagon-like-peptide 1 (GLP-1) analogs in in vivo and in vitro models and in Friedreich ataxia patients. The GLP-1 analog exenatide improved glucose homeostasis of frataxin-deficient mice through enhanced insulin content and secretion in pancreatic β-cells. Exenatide induced frataxin and iron-sulfur cluster-containing proteins in β-cells and brain, and was protective to sensory neurons in dorsal root ganglia. GLP-1 analogs also induced frataxin expression, reduced oxidative stress and improved mitochondrial function in Friedreich ataxia patients' induced pluripotent stem cell-derived β-cells and sensory neurons. The frataxin-inducing effect of exenatide was confirmed in a pilot trial in Friedreich ataxia patients, showing modest frataxin induction in platelets over a 5-week treatment course. Taken together, GLP-1 analogs improve mitochondrial function in frataxin-deficient cells and induce frataxin expression. These findings identify incretin receptors as a therapeutic target in Friedreich ataxia.

Read the entire article HERE

Nanoscopic X-ray imaging and quantification of the iron cellular architecture within single fibroblasts of Friedreich's ataxia patients

In this study, the nanoscale iron distribution within single fibroblasts from Friedreich's ataxia patients was investigated using synchrotron-radiation-based nanoscopic X-ray fluorescence and X-ray in-line holography at the ID16A nano-imaging beamline of the ESRF. This unique probe was deployed to uncover the iron cellular two-dimensional architecture of freeze-dried FRDA fibroblasts. An unsurpassed absolute detection capability of 180 iron atoms within a 30 nm × 50 nm nanoscopic X-ray beam footprint was obtained using state-of-the-art X-ray focusing optics and a large-solid-angle detection system. Various micrometre-sized iron-rich organelles could be revealed for the first time, tentatively identified as endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria and lysosomes. Also a multitude of nanoscopic iron hot-spots were observed in the cytosol, interpreted as chaperoned iron within the fibroblast's labile iron pool. These observations enable new hypotheses on the storage and trafficking of iron in the cell and ultimately to a better understanding of iron-storage diseases such as Friedreich's ataxia.

Read the entire article HERE

Age of onset determines intrinsic functional brain architecture in Friedreich ataxia

In this study the authors used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to characterize the main determinants of Friedreich ataxia (FRDA)-related changes in intrinsic functional brain architecture. Five minutes of MEG signals were recorded at rest from 18 right-handed FRDA patients (mean age 27 years, 9 females; mean SARA score: 21.4) and matched healthy individuals. The MEG connectome was estimated as resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) matrices involving 37 nodes from six major resting state networks and the cerebellum. Source-level rsFC maps were computed using leakage-corrected broad-band (3-40 Hz) envelope correlations. Post hoc median-split was used to contrast rsFC in FRDA patients with different clinical characteristics. Nonparametric permutations and Spearman rank correlation test were used for statistics. High rank correlation levels were found between rsFC and age of symptoms onset in FRDA mostly between the ventral attention, the default-mode, and the cerebellar networks; patients with higher rsFC developing symptoms at an older age. Increased rsFC was found in FRDA with later age of symptoms onset compared to healthy subjects. No correlations were found between rsFC and other clinical parameters. This study points to age of symptom onset as a major determinant of FRDA patients' intrinsic functional brain architecture. Higher rsFC in FRDA patients with later age of symptom onset supports compensatory mechanisms for FRDA-related neural network dysfunction and position neuromagnetic rsFC as potential marker of FRDA neural reserve.

Read the entire article HERE

A new tool to determine the cellular metabolic landscape: nanotechnology to the study of Friedreich's ataxia

Understanding the cell response to oxidative stress in disease is an important but difficult task. Here, the authors demonstrate the feasibility of using a nanomotion sensor to study the cellular metabolic landscape. This nanosensor permits the non-invasive real-time detection at the single-cell level and offers high sensitivity and time resolution. The technique was optimised to study the effects of frataxin overexpression in a cellular model of Friedreich's ataxia. Previous studies had demonstrated that FXN overexpression are as toxic as silencing, thus indicating the importance of a tight regulation of the frataxin levels. The effects of frataxin overexpression was probed in the presence of oxidative stress insults and the metabolic response measured by the nanosensor. The authors show that the nanosensor provides new detailed information on the metabolic state of the cell as a function of time that agrees with and complements data obtained by more traditional techniques. The authors propose that the nanosensor can be used in the future as a new and powerful tool to study directly how drugs modulate the effects of oxidative stress on Friedreich's ataxia patients and, more in general, on other neurodegenerative processes.

Read the entire article HERE

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