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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.



Peripheral blood gene expression reveals an inflammatory transcriptomic signature in Friedreich's ataxia patients

Transcriptional changes in Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA), a rare and debilitating recessive Mendelian neurodegenerative disorder, have been studied in affected but inaccessible tissues - such as dorsal root ganglia, sensory neurons, and cerebellum - in animal models or small patient series. However, transcriptional changes induced by FRDA in peripheral blood, a readily accessible tissue, have not been characterized in a large sample. We used differential expression, association with disability stage, network analysis, and enrichment analysis to characterize the peripheral blood transcriptome and identify genes that were differentially expressed in FRDA patients (n = 418) compared to both heterozygous expansion carriers (n = 228) and controls (n = 93, 739 individuals in total), or were associated with disease progression, resulting in a disease signature for FRDA. We identified a transcriptional signature strongly enriched for an inflammatory innate immune response. Future studies should seek to further characterize the role of peripheral inflammation in FRDA pathology and determine its relevance to overall disease progression.

Read the entire article HERE

Lipophilic methylene blue analogues enhance mitochondrial function and increase frataxin levels in a cellular model of Friedreich's ataxia

Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) is an autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disorder resulting from reduced expression of the protein frataxin (FXN). Although its function is not fully understood, frataxin appears to help assemble iron sulfur clusters; these are critical for the function of many proteins, including those needed for mitochondrial energy production. Finding ways to increase FXN levels has been a major therapeutic strategy for this disease. Previously, we described a novel series of methylene violet analogues and their structural optimization as potential therapeutic agents for neurodegenerative and mitochondrial disorders. Presently, a series of methylene blue analogues has been synthesized and characterized for their in vitro biochemical and biological properties in cultured Friedreich's ataxia lymphocytes. Favorable methylene blue analogues were shown to increase frataxin levels and mitochondrial biogenesis, and to improve aconitase activity. The analogues were found to be good ROS scavengers, and able to protect cultured FRDA lymphocytes from oxidative stress resulting from inhibition of complex I and from glutathione depletion. The analogues also preserved mitochondrial membrane potential and augmented ATP production. Our results suggest that analogue 5, emerging from the initial structure of the parent compound methylene blue (MB), represents a promising lead structure and lacks the cytotoxicity associated with the parent compound MB.

Read the entire article HERE

Diabetes mellitus in Friedreich Ataxia: A case series of 19 patients from the German-Austrian diabetes mellitus registry

Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is a multisystem autosomal recessive disease with progressive clinical course involving the neuromuscular and endocrine system. Diabetes mellitus (DM) is one typical non-neurological manifestation, caused by beta cell failure and insulin resistance. Because of its rarity, knowledge on DM in FRDA is limited. Based on data from 200 301 patients with DM of the German-Austrian diabetes registry (DPV) and two exemplary patient reports, characteristics of patients with DM and FRDA are compared with classical type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Diabetes phenotype in FRDA is intermediate between type 1 and type 2 diabetes with ketoacidosis being frequent at presentation and blood glucose levels similar to T1Dm but higher than in T2Dm (356 ±165 and 384± 203 mg/dl). 63.2% of FRDA patients received insulin monotherapy, 21% insulin plus oral antidiabetics and 15.8% lifestyle change only, applying similar doses of insulin in all three groups. FRDA patients did not show overweight and HbA1c levels were even lower than in T1Dm or T2Dm patients, respectively, indicating good overall diabetes control. FRDADm can be controlled by individualized treatment regimen with insulin or oral antidiabetics. Patients with DM in FRDA may show a relevant risk to ketoacidotic complications, which should be avoided.

Read the entire article HERE

Impact of Mobility Device Use on Quality of Life in Children With Friedreich Ataxia

This study was set up to determine how mobility device use impacts quality of life in children with Friedreich ataxia. Data from 111 pediatric patients with genetically confirmed Friedreich ataxia were collected from a prospective natural history study utilizing standardized clinical evaluations, including health-related quality of life using the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL) 4.0 Generic Core Module. Mobility device use was associated with worse mean PedsQL total, physical, emotional, social, and academic subscores, after adjusting for gender, age of disease onset, and Friedreich Ataxia Rating Scale score. The magnitude of the difference was greatest for the physical subscore (-19.5 points, 95% CI = -30.00, -8.99, P < .001) and least for the emotional subscore (-10.61 points, 95% CI = -20.21, -1.02, P = .03). Transition to or between mobility devices trended toward worse physical subscore (-16.20 points, 95% CI = -32.07, -0.33, P = .05). The authors conclude that mobility device use is associated with significant worsening of all domains of quality of life in children with Friedreich ataxia.

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Randomized, clinical trial of RT001: Early signals of efficacy in Friedreich's ataxia

RT001 is a deuterated ethyl linoleate that inhibits lipid peroxidation and is hypothesized to reduce cellular damage and recover mitochondrial function in degenerative diseases such as Friedreich's ataxia. The goal of this trial was to evaluate the safety, pharmacokinetics, and preliminary efficacy of RT001 in Friedreich's ataxia patients. The group conducted a phase I/II double-blind, comparator-controlled trial with 2 doses of RT001 in Friedreich's ataxia patients (9 subjects each cohort). Subjects were randomized 2:1 to receive either RT001 (1.8 or 9.0 g/day), or a matching dose of nondeuterated ethyl linoleate as comparator for 28 days. The primary endpoints were safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetic analysis. Secondary endpoints included cardiopulmonary exercise testing and timed 25-foot walk. 19 patients enrolled in the trial, and 18 completed all safety and efficacy measurements. RT001 was found to be safe and tolerable, with plasma levels approaching saturation by 28 days. One subject with a low body mass index experienced steatorrhea taking a high dose and discontinued the study. Deuterated arachidonic acid (a brain-penetrant metabolite of RT001) was found to be present in plasma on day 28. There was an improvement in peak workload in the drug group compared to placebo (0.16 watts/kg; P = 0.008), as well as an improvement trend in peak oxygen consumption (change of 0.16 L/min; P = 0.116), and in stride speed (P = 0.15). RT001 was found to be safe and tolerable over 28 days, and improved peak workload. The authors conclude that further research into the effect of RT001 in Friedreich's ataxia is warranted.

Read the entire article HERE

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