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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.


Friedreich's ataxia and scoliosis: the experience at two institutions

PURPOSE:
Friedreich's ataxia is a genetically transmitted, progressive spinocerebellar degenerative disease characterized by ataxia. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the demographics, progression, nonoperative, and operative treatment of spinal deformities in patients with Friedreich's ataxia at 2 tertiary pediatric orthopaedic hospitals.

METHODS:
After institutional review board approval, chart review of Friedreich's ataxia patients identified those having scoliosis. Demographic data, length of follow-up, brace treatment, operative treatment, and complications were determined. Radiographic review was also performed.

RESULTS:
Seventy-seven patients were identified as having Friedreich's ataxia, of which 49 (63%) were diagnosed with scoliosis. Twenty-seven were male; 22 were female.

Read More: Friedreich's ataxia and scoliosis: the experience at two institutions

Proteomic analysis of hearts from frataxin knockout mice

Marked rearrangement of energy metabolism, a response to cellular stress and altered expression of proteins involved in cell structure, motility and metabolism.

A frequent cause of death in Friedreich's ataxia patients is cardiomyopathy, but the molecular alterations underlying this condition are unknown. We performed 2-DE to characterize the changes in protein expression of hearts using the muscle creatine kinase frataxin conditional knockout (KO) mouse. Pronounced changes in protein expression profile were observed in 9 week-old KO mice with severe cardiomyopathy. In contrast, only several proteins showed altered expression in asymptomatic 4 week-old KO mice. In hearts from frataxin KO mice, components of the iron-dependent complex-I and -II of the mitochondrial electron transport chain and enzymes involved in ATP homeostasis (creatine kinase, adenylate kinase) displayed decreased expression. Interestingly, the KO hearts exhibited increased expression of enzymes involved in the citric acid cycle, catabolism of branched-chain amino acids, ketone body utilization and pyruvate decarboxylation.

Read More: Proteomic analysis of hearts from frataxin knockout mice

Binding of yeast frataxin to the scaffold for Fe-S cluster biogenesis, Isu

Friedreich ataxia is caused by reduced activity of frataxin, a conserved iron-binding protein of the mitochondrial matrix, thought to supply iron for formation of Fe-S clusters on the scaffold protein Isu. Frataxin binds Isu in an iron-dependent manner in vitro. However, the biological relevance of this interaction and whether in vivo the interaction between frataxin and Isu is mediated by adaptor proteins is a matter of debate. Here, we report that alterations of conserved, surface-exposed residues of yeast frataxin, which have deleterious effects on cell growth, impair Fe-S cluster biogenesis and interaction with Isu while altering neither iron binding nor oligomerization.

Read More: Binding of yeast frataxin to the scaffold for Fe-S cluster biogenesis, Isu

Brain white matter tracts degeneration in Friedreich ataxia

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE:
Neuropathological examination in Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) reveals neuronal loss in the gray matter (GM) nuclei and degeneration of the white matter (WM) tracts in the spinal cord, brainstem and cerebellum, while the cerebral hemispheres are substantially spared. Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) enables an unbiased whole-brain quantitative analysis of the fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) of the brain WM tracts in vivo.

PATIENTS AND METHODS:
We assessed with TBSS 14 patients with genetically confirmed FRDA and 14 age- and sex-matched healthy controls who were also examined with voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to assess regional atrophy of the GM and WM.

Read More: Brain white matter tracts degeneration in Friedreich ataxia

The Friedreich ataxia GAA repeat expansion mutation induces comparable epigenetic changes in human and transgenic mouse brain and heart tissues

Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is caused by a homozygous GAA repeat expansion mutation within intron 1 of the FXN gene, leading to reduced expression of frataxin protein. Evidence suggests that the mutation may induce epigenetic changes and heterochromatin formation, thereby impeding gene transcription. In particular, studies using FRDA patient blood and lymphoblastoid cell lines have detected increased DNA methylation of specific CpG sites upstream of the GAA repeat and histone modifications in regions flanking the GAA repeat. In this report we show that such epigenetic changes are also present in FRDA patient brain, cerebellum and heart tissues, the primary affected systems of the disorder. Bisulfite sequence analysis of the FXN flanking GAA regions reveals a shift in the FRDA DNA methylation profile, with upstream CpG sites becoming consistently hypermethylated and downstream CpG sites becoming consistently hypomethylated.

Read More: The Friedreich ataxia GAA repeat expansion mutation induces comparable epigenetic changes ...

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