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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.


Reata provides update on development of omaveloxolone in FA

Omaveloxolone for Friedreich’s Ataxia

Following the announcement of the positive data from the MOXIe Part 2 study in October 2019, we have planned, subject to discussion with regulatory authorities, to proceed with a submission for marketing approval of omaveloxolone for the treatment of Friedreich’s ataxia (“FA”) in the United States. We recently completed a Type C meeting in which the FDA provided us with guidance that it does not have any concerns with the reliability of the mFARS primary endpoint results in the MOXIe Part 2 study. Nevertheless, the FDA is not convinced that the MOXIe Part 2 results will support a single study approval without additional evidence that lends persuasiveness to the results. In preliminary comments for the meeting, the FDA stated that we will need to conduct a second pivotal trial that confirms the mFARS results of the MOXIe Part 2 study with a similar magnitude of effect... (more)

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Test-retest reliability of the Friedreich's ataxia rating scale

The modified Friedreich Ataxia Rating Scale (mFARS) is a disease specific, exam-based neurological rating scale commonly used as an outcome measure in clinical trials. While extensive clinimetric testing indicates its validity in measuring disease progression, formal test-retest reliability was lacking. To fill this gap, the authors acquired results from screening and baseline visits of several large clinical trials and calculated intraclass correlation coefficients, coefficients of variance, standard error, and the minimally detectable changes. This study demonstrated excellent test-retest reliability of the mFARS, and its upright stability subscore.

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Distribution of Particles in Human Stem Cell-Derived 3D Neuronal Cell Models: Effect of Particle Size, Charge, and Density

Neurodegenerative diseases are generally characterized by a progressive loss of neuronal subpopulations, with no available cure to date. One of the main reasons for the limited clinical outcomes of new drug formulations is the lack of appropriate in vitro human cell models for research and validation. Stem cell technologies provide an opportunity to address this challenge by using patient-derived cells as a platform to test various drug formulations, including particle-based drug carriers. The therapeutic efficacy of drug delivery systems relies on efficient cellular uptake of the carrier and can be dependent on its size, shape, and surface chemistry. Although considerable efforts have been made to understand the effects of the physiochemical properties of particles on two-dimensional cell culture models, little is known of their effect in three-dimensional (3D) cell models of neurodegenerative diseases. Herein, the authors investigated the role of particle size (235-1000 nm), charge (cationic and anionic), and density (1.05 and 1.8 g cm-3) on the interactions of particles with human embryonic stem cell-derived 3D cell cultures of sensory neurons, called sensory neurospheres (sNSP). Templated layer-by-layer particles, with silica or polystyrene cores, and self-assembled glycogen/DNA polyplexes were used. Particles with sizes <280 nm effectively penetrated sNSP. Additionally, effective plasmid DNA delivery was observed up to 6 days post-transfection with glycogen/DNA polyplexes. The findings provide guidance in nanoparticle design for therapies aimed at neurodegenerative diseases, in particular Friedreich's ataxia, whereby sensory neurons are predominantly affected. They also demonstrate the application of 3D models of human sensory neurons in preclinical drug development.

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Identification of a Novel Oleic Acid Analog with Protective Effects in Multiple Cellular Models of Friedreich Ataxia

Previous studies suggested that cell death in (Friedreich Ataxia) FRDA may involve ferroptosis, an iron-dependent form of cell death requiring lipid peroxidation. Based on reports that oleic acid acts as a ferroptosis inhibitor, the authors evaluated whether it, other fatty acids, and fatty acid derivatives could rescue viability in cellular models of FRDA. they identified a trifluoromethyl alcohol analog of oleic acid that was significantly more potent than oleic acid itself. Further evaluation indicated that the effects were stereoselective, although a specific molecular target has not yet been identified. This work provides a potential starting point for therapeutics to treat FRDA, as well as a valuable probe molecule to interrogate FRDA pathophysiology.

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R-loops promote trinucleotide repeat deletion through DNA base excision repair enzymatic activities

Trinucleotide repeat (TNR) expansion and deletion are responsible for over 40 neurodegenerative diseases and associated with cancer. TNR can undergo somatic instability that is mediated by DNA damage and repair, and gene transcription. Recent studies have pointed towards a role for R-loops in causing TNR expansion and deletion, and it's been shown that base excision repair (BER) can result in CAG repeat deletions from R-loops in yeast. However, it remains unknown how BER in R-loops can mediate TNR instability. In this study, using biochemical approaches, the authors examined BER enzymatic activities and their influence on TNR-R-loops. This study found that AP endonuclease 1 incised an abasic site on the non-template strand of a TNR R-loop, creating a double-flap intermediate containing an RNA-DNA hybrid that subsequently inhibited pol β DNA synthesis of TNRs. This stimulated flap endonuclease 1 (FEN1) cleavage of TNRs engaged in an R-loop. Moreover, the authors showed that FEN1 also efficiently cleaved the RNA strand, facilitating pol β loop/hairpin bypass synthesis and the resolution of TNR R-loops through BER. Consequently, this resulted in fewer TNRs synthesized by pol β than those removed by FEN1, thereby leading to repeat deletion. These results indicate that TNR R-loops preferentially lead to repeat deletion during BER by disrupting the balance between the addition and removal of TNRs. These discoveries open a new avenue for the treatments and prevention of repeat expansion diseases and cancer.

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